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My books, Lulu in LA LA Land and Lulu in Honolulu are humorous Middle Reader fiction. Although the designation “middle reader” can refer to the audience, not the genre, I think of books in this range as distinct. Children between the ages of eight and twelve stretch and grow in mind and body. Society, however, focuses on teens. Teen issues swirl around media and popular culture. When I decided to write, it was because I thought there needed to be more stories to fill the gap between picture books and long paperbacks about sexy vampires.
I love writing for “tweens” because the issues they often face for the first time are foundation issues of life: family, friends, food, and fitting in. People don’t think about that! Learning how to manage these basics of life starts when we are tweens. These recurring issues will often creep into the tween world or smack tweens in the gut. Either way, this transition time between being a little kid and being more grown up isn’t easy. Whether you face these issues for the first time at eight or twelve, you better get used to them because you will face them again and again for the rest of your life.
In my Lulu books, Lulu, is ten turning eleven. She craves her parents’ attention. Her parents make movies and spend way more time on “reel” life than on “real” life. In both my books, Lulu sets out to be noticed, praised, and appreciated by her parents and her naturally cool, older sister. She does not have a wand or any other type of magical powers. She has creativity, imagination, and a sense of humor. Lulu possesses the magical powers that we are all born with. As a mother of two teens and well through my 40s, I admit to still loving praise from my parents (who are in their late 70s). Wanting to please the people we love feels important no matter how old we are. Understanding that it’s impossible to get our loved ones’ attention whenever we want, is a big step in life.
Lulu has best friends. The attachment to her friends is a common thread in the Lulu stories. Misunderstandings crop up and Lulu has to learn how to apologize. She has to learn how to balance her friends and her family. She has to learn that sometimes there are people who, for whatever reason, don’t want to be your friend. Here’s a big secret: writing about my main character and her relationships helped me! We are all constantly calibrating how to be a friend. Honesty, natural kindness and support, and of course humor, come in handy for Lulu. They are also useful for all of us. Before we get older and begin to over think and over analyze and over plan, we make friends the old fashioned way – by doing creative, fun things with someone we like.
There’s no life without food. Among Lulu’s passions is food. She loves to cook and loves to eat, even though she is surrounded by a diet obsessed family. She does not let messages of being thin invade her enjoyment of chips and salsa, grilled cheese sandwiches, and coconut shakes. Lulu knows who she is. She has her own style and that includes being a girl who is comfortable in her own body. Longing to be a size 2 is not part of her and it should not be part of us unless, of course, that’s our natural body type. Growing up in Los Angeles and seeing mothers of tweens and teens wearing the same tiny sized trendy clothes always made me want to grab a pint of ice cream. Oh-and finish it off!
Lulu makes it clear in the first book: she’s not a fitter inner. Truth be told, neither am I. When I read at schools I admit to children, the reason I wrote Lulu is because ever since I was ten turning eleven, I was different from the other kids. I liked riding my bicycle. Girls at my school didn’t. I liked acting out Sound of Music on my roller skates. No one else did. I trained and groomed my beloved dog and took her to dog shows, where no kids ever wanted to come. I didn’t set out to be lonely. I only wanted to be who I was on the inside. If it’s not ok to be yourself before you hit the teenage years, you’re never going to feel safe and secure in your own skin.
So, here’s the biggest and best secret about why I love middle reader fiction: it all happens here first. Family, friends, food, fitting in — again and again, throughout life, these pillars hold us up always!
Lights! Camera! FIREWORKS! Lulu leaves Tinsel Town to go on location in Hawaii where her parents are working on a blockbuster action movie. Despite the relaxing setting, Lulu’s busy family barely spends five minutes together. Lulu decides to take a break from inventing new types of coconut smoothies to organize a family Fourth of July party. But when big sis Alexis tries to “help,” her small luau turns into a huge casting call. Lulu has to reclaim the director’s chair and put on a Fourth of July bash where everyone can have a starring role.
About the Author: Elisabeth Wolf is a bit Lulu. She lives in Los Angeles where she grows fruits, vegetables, and native flowers. She bakes her children’s birthday cakes and eats spicy Mexican food. Every so often, she loves a good shopping trip and pedicure. Lulu in Hololulu is the second book in her series.