Lola is smart, mischevious, and my kids totally relate to her big issues of refusing to go to bed, go to school, or eat a tomato. The series theme (and book titles) often feature Lola’s passionate complaints about the her life, similar to the Junie B. Jones series, but somehow, instead of coming off as a horrible, intolerable brat as Junie B. does, Lola is appealing. The reason is because readers experience Lola through the eyes of her older brother, Charlie, who loves and admires his troubling sibling.
Each book begins: “I have this little sister, Lola. She is small and very funny.” Though this brother-sister dynamic is sterotypical of kids books– elder brother guides his younger sister, his name always comes first (see my Magic Tree House post) Charlie is an especially kind and perceptive caretaker. He’s such a great older brother that, for the longest time, I assumed he was a girl. I didn’t even wonder. Which is remarkable for me because I’m supposed to be so hyper-sensitive to this stuff.
Charlie looks just like Lola– same shaggy hair, tiny nose (looks like three tiny fingers pointed downwards) and dark, almond eyes. It was my husband who broke the news. After a brief debate and looking carefully at the pictures, I had to concede– Charlie is, in fact, a boy. His jaw is slightly broader than Lola’s, he’s always in pants (Lola’s shown in a dress), he has a best friend named Marv; they play soccer together and walk Marv’s dog. Charlie does nothing in these books explicitly girlie.
Though my husband was right, I have to assume the author, Lauren Child, intended some gender ambiguity with the name choice and giving the two kids such a similar look. Charlie is always pictured in a shirt that reads “Charlie,” I think so kids can tell them apart. If any of you had similar questions about Charlie, let me know.
The collage type illustrations are beautiful and compelling. (Lauren Child also ilustrated a book we have of Pippi Longstocking and wrote and illustarted a version of The Princess and the Pea.) The text in all Child’s books is always visually interesting, in different sizes, bold face and italics, words swirling into loop de loops.
I liked this series so much that I kept buying new books but became disappointed. I think Child must have sold the series. Later books are more like slogans (recycle!) than stories, include pages of stickers, and large seals on the cover urging readers to watch Charlie and Lola on TV. ***GG***