Seventh-grader Lucinda "Lou" Bulosan-Nelson dreams of being an architect and cannot help but compare the people around her with houses. For example, her grandmother "would be a hot pink Painted Lady--one of those fancy San Francisco Victorians tourists love, with intricate stained glass that casts rainbows onto the sidewalks." That is to say, "She's colorful." Lou's own style is more in line with a tiny house, one that has "a composting toilet and, right above the kitchen, a cozy sleeping loft." Someday, she's going to build her dream home on the land her father left her when he died. But just before Lou's 13th birthday, her mother announces she's accepted a job in Washington State. Lou can't fathom leaving her friends and her large, affectionate Filipino family. She decides she has to do something to stop her mother from making this move--she'll build her tiny house now.
Mae Respicio's charming middle-grade debut offers an intimate experience of Filipino culture as well as a message of empowerment to young girls with grand goals. Lou is ambitious and curious; feels butterflies in her belly when a boy she likes pays attention to her; and shuns dresses, delighting in a tool belt her cousins give her (especially because "it's not even girl-ified in pink or with swirly designs"). Lou is a narrator with whom readers can empathize, making The House that Lou Built a sweet treasure for any budding reader. --Jen Forbus, freelancer