by Esta Spalding
Illustrated by Sydney Smith
Tundra Books (Penguin Random House)
Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts because they’re here now and I’m sure they’re going to be around for a while (I’m already anticipating a follow-up book), even if they don’t have anyone really looking out for them. The four Fitzgerald-Trout children-Kim, 11; Kimo, 11; Pippa, 8; and Toby, 5–are an odd assortment of children conceived through different combinations of fathers and mothers which include the wealthy and greedy Maya (mother to Kim and Pippa), the vain singer Tina (Kimo and Toby’s mother), the missing-at-sea Johnny Trout (father of Kimo) and mammalian research scientist Dr. Fitzgerald (father of Kim, Pippa and Toby).
They had different mothers and different fathers. But they knew that didn’t matter. They were a family because if you aren’t a family, you don’t live together in the same little car. They knew they were brothers and sisters, even if when they made a new friend at school they had to take out a stick and draw in the dirt to explain just how they were related. (pg. 31)And they all live in a small green car, which has gotten too small for them all to sleep in comfortably at night. Kim, who wishes she lived in a house like the Perfects in her favourite book (a two-books-in-one The Perfects and The Awfuls), keeps their little family on track with her to-do lists (which often includes "Find a House"), ensuring they go to school, do their laundry at Mr. Knuckles’ laundromat, and purchase food essentials and ice for their cooler from the loose coins Maya would give them or the money Tina dropped off for them.
When Maya is arrested for defrauding her investment clients, Kim almost finds them a home in Maya’s empty mansion, until it is seized to help repay investors. Also thwarted is Kim's plan for them to hide away in the staged bedrooms of the massive furniture store MARRA. It’s not until Kim decides that the Perfects whose lives are just too ideal are not the best of role models and that the Awfuls, who have endured and survived a variety of challenges, might be able to help guide them, that the Fitzgerald-Trouts find a home, far off the beaten path.
Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts may read like a handbook of how NOT to parent your children but it’s a celebration of family, unconventional as it may be, and the drive to find a home and meet challenges with creativity and perseverance. Esta Spalding has produced a set of widely-different characters who don’t always get along but at heart are everything to each other. They are strong and weak, and childish and mature, and selfless and inconsiderate, and they are children who have adventures and suffer all manner of adversity and stick together. Middle-grade readers and proficient early readers will enjoy the journey on which Esta Spalding’s story takes them, all the more beguiling for its tropical island setting, its diverse and over-the-top characters and the ruts and potholes along the way. And, though the illlustrations are rarely a subtantial component of any novel, Sydney Smith’s black-and-white line drawings help give substance to the Fitzgerald-Trouts and their story. Look out for Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts on reading lists everywhere very soon.
Kim from Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts
by Esta Spalding, illus. by Sydney Smith