The Lotterys Plus One

By Emma Donoghue (Macmillan Children’s books)

Meet the Lotterys: a unique and diverse family featuring four parents, seven kids and five pets – all living happily together in their big old house, Camelottery. Nine-year-old Sumac is the organizer of the family and is looking forward to a long summer of fun.  But when their grumpy and intolerant grandad comes to stay, everything is turned upside down. How will Sumac and her family manage with another person to add to their hectic lives?

Written by the award-winning author of Room, The Lotterys Plus One, arrived to much pre-publicity.  Although I found Room a hard read due to the sensitive subject matter, I thought it an excellent book so I was looking forward to The Lotterys. Right from the start though, I found it exhausting reading. The idea of a very mixed up family covering all sorts of diversity including; a blend of cultural backgrounds (Scottish Canadian, Indian, Jamaican and Mohawk), one child with autism, three adopted children, one transgender and one developmentally disabled child, felt overdone.   The twee names – all the children are named after trees, the parents are CardaMom, MaxiMum, PapaDum and PopCorn, the funny but too self-aware nicknames for things,  the fact that they won a lottery so don’t ever have to work, and all four parents are almost always home and they homeschool the kids, the quirky idiosyncratic way they live their lives, all began to drown out the story.  Which is essentially how the family adapt to a new member who is very grumpy and offensive.  It may help to show children that all sorts of different can make up a family and there is no ‘one model.’  Only problem is I felt overwhelmed by this family. One reviewer put it perfectly: ‘This is the fantasy family everyone wants to live in, but nobody actually does.’

Will your child enjoy it?  There is a good chance they may – as an adult I’m probably too aware of the crafting of the story and the gimmicks used to create humour.  There are gorgeous black and white illustrations by Caroline Hadilaksono every few pages and the cover hooked me right in. Let us know what you thought.



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