MG at Heart Book Club Book Review: THE HOUSE THAT LOU BUILT, by Mae Respicio

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Our September book club pick was the fun and heart-warming THE HOUSE THAT LOU BUILT by Mae Respicio.

Twelve—almost thirteen—year-old Lou Bulosan-Nelson has the ultimate summer DIY project. She’s going to build her own “tiny house,” 100 square feet all her own. She shares a room with her mom in her grandmother’s house, and longs for a place when she can escape her crazy but lovable extended Filipino family. Lou enjoys her woodshop class and creating projects, and she plans to build the house on land she inherited from her dad, who died before she was born. But then, she finds out that the land may not be hers for much longer.

Lou discovers it’s not easy to save her land, or to build a house. But she won’t give up; with the help of friends and relatives, her dream begins to take shape, and she learns the deeper meaning of home and family.

In the opening chapters of the book, we are introduced to Lou’s boisterous and lovable family, all who manage to squeeze into her lola’s house. And we’re also introduced to what Lou really wants for her thirteenth birthday: a tiny house.

“There’s only one thing I want—my own house. I just have to build it first.”

We learn she’s prepared herself for the work. She’s watched how-to videos, saved up scraps from her volunteer job, and applied herself in her woodshop class at school.

The neat thing about what happens with building the tiny house, is that Lou is not able to build it alone, like she imagined. It takes a team effort with her relatives, her friends, even her friendly teacher. She discovers that a house isn’t always a home.

“Home isn’t necessarily a place; it’s more of a feeling—of comfort and trust, of people who are a part of you.”

This community story will immerse you in family, friends, and love. And it will leave you with a warm heart, a look into Filipino culture, and a yearning for the delicious food!

To learn more about Mae, or for printable drawing pages, activities, recipes, and discussion questions, check out our Middle Grade at Heart newsletter devoted to THE HOUSE THAT LOU BUILT here.

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