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The Lotterys are a very large, very diverse family. When a grandfather is diagnosed with dementia, he comes to live with them. Nine-year-old Sumac tries to welcome "Grumps," but he is not only resistant, but also racist and homophobic. Sumac hatches a plot to find him another home.
The story is charming and the characters are well done. The complex interactions among a large group of people as they attempt to adjust are realistic.
I felt the diversity in the story was way overdone. There are four parents consisting of two same-sex couples who have decided to live together and raise children together. These four have the following cultural backgrounds: Scottish Canadian, Indian, Jamaican and Mohawk. The first four kids are some kind of biological blend of the four parents (and one of these four has autism), the next three are adopted, the oldest of which is Filipino, the next one is transgender and the baby is developmentally disabled. It comes off like a deliberate attempt to include every single minority.
In addition, the parents are wealthy because they won the lottery the day the first child was born. Nobody has to work and all of the kids are homeschooled with all four parents home almost all the time. This is the fantasy family everyone wants to live in, but nobody actually does.
I had an issue with the fact that they had to go all the way to the Yukon to find a homophobic racist. There seems to be an implication that liberal, diverse Toronto is all happy and accepting of everybody. Toronto is my native city and, though it is a great place for people of all backgrounds to live, it is certainly not free of bigotry (sadly).
I was also bothered by the fact that the transgender child is not completely accepted as transgender. It bothers me on principle, but also because it is inconsistent with the characters. I find it difficult to believe that people who are so very open and accepting of everything else would have difficulty switching pronouns when their child insists he is "not a girl"!
That being said, I think this book would appeal to elementary-age readers because of its appeal to fantasy. Older readers, however, may find it difficult to relate to the characters for the same reason.
The Lotterys Plus One gets points for including a diverse set of characters and making them mostly feel like real people when they aren't just present to add diversity, but it also spends a lot of time reminding readers about the diverse cast of characters. The story is mainly about Sumac and how she reacts when one of her grandparents moves into her room and throws the Lottery family into upheaval. Sumac is a pretty smart cookie for her age, but she has emotional reactions that fit her age group. The basic premise is readable and sometimes interesting. However, my hangup is that the author seems to be trying too hard to make the family extremely diverse.
I can see parents on the conservative end bristling at this book. I have no issue with that. Books are meant to engage and make us think outside our comfort zones. What they don't need to do is give us a gender fluid character who insists he is not a girl (though he was born female) and have all the surrounding characters keep referring to him as "her" or "she." While kids will no doubt not be bothered in the slightest, whenever a character insists on at least four occasions he is not a girl, why keep referring to him that way?
The Lotterys are a very nontraditional family unit which is hammered home at any glimpse of an opportunity. There is room in childrens' fiction for this type of book, but the execution left me feeling like there has to be a better way to handle the subject. There is a point where too much diversity can be forced into a book and this is an example of it. I applaud what the author is aiming to do and there are some good bits, but in the end this enraged me in the mishandling of the issues than it did make me want to read another outing.
2.0 out of 5 starsI felt like Grumps reading this book -- annoyed
Reviewed in the United States on 22 May 2017
I was looking forward to a story about a quirky family and the grandfather who comes to live with them, but reading this book made me feel like the crabby grandfather even though I am not overly conservative.
The Lotterys are a blended family consisting of a gay couple and a lesbian couple, their seven children (4 biological, 3 adopted), and several pets. The last name is one the adults all took after they won a huge lottery jackpot when the oldest child was born. Grumps, the "Plus One" of the title is an older man who has been estranged from his son for many years and has never met any of the other family members. The book was told from the perspective of the 5th child, 9 year-old Sumac.
What took this family (and thus the story), from quirky to annoying for me was that the author took the family's "diversity" over the top. The parents are Jamaican, First Nations (Canadian version of Native American), Indian (Hindu or Sikh), and white. Among the children there is one who appears to have ADHD, one who is transgender/gender fluid, and one with developmental issues. The dog has only 3 legs.
The children are not so much home schooled as engaged in self-directed experiential learning. And rather than correct the younger children for getting words wrong, the family seems to adopt the wrong words into their family vocabulary. These are just some of the ways the Lotterys were not just quirky but annoyingly over the top. If the author wanted readers to feel the strangeness of the family as much as Grumps, she succeeded. If all the quirks were done with a tongue in cheek feel, it would have been manageable. But it was all so "precious" feeling that it put me off and I was so sick of them I had to force myself to finish the book.
Perhaps someone in the intended age range would find the family's quirks fun and not annoying. But I have to warn potential gifters of this book. Do not give this book to the children of a politically or religiously conservative family. The parents will not appreciate it and if I found the family annoying in its quirks, they will hate them.
There is a second book coming from the author about the Lotterys. I don't think I can handle another one and will pass on it.