The Pillow Book of Lotus Lowenstein

The Pillow Book of Lotus Lowenstein

by Libby Schmais

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An adorable, completely original YA voice.

Lotus Lowenstein's life is merde. She dreams of moving to Paris and becoming an existentialist. Yet here she is trapped in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with a New-Agey mom, an out-of-work dad, and a chess champion brother who dreams of being a rock star. Merci à Dieu for Lotus’s best friend, Joni, who loves French culture enough to cofound their high school’s first French Club with Lotus. At the first meeting, the cutest boy in the world walks in. His name is Sean, and he too loves French culture and worships Jean-Paul Sartre.

At first, Lotus thinks Sean is the best thing to happen to her in years. He’s smart, cultured, and adorable. Unfortunately, though, Joni feels the same way. And having an existentialist view of love, Sean sees nothing wrong with enjoying both girls’ affections. Things come to a head when all three depart for Montreal with their teacher, Ms. G, on the French Club’s first official field trip. Will Sean choose Joni over Lotus? And will Lotus and Joni’s friendship ever recover?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375893803
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 12/08/2009
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
File size: 2 MB
Age Range: 12 Years

About the Author

Libby Schmais is the author of the adult novels The Perfect Elizabeth and The Essential Charlotte. This is her first novel for young readers. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Read an Excerpt


Lundi, 12 Mars

As you may have guessed, my name is Lotus Lowenstein and this is my diary. My name is not a joke; it actually says Lotus on my birth certificate. My mother was into some whole Zen/yoga thing when I was born. I’m sixteen (almost) and I’m in the middle of my sophomore year in high school, and I know that this year will be completely different than all other years of my life. This year, I will become an existentialist, go to France, and fall in love (hopefully in Paris) with a dashing Frenchman named Jean-something. We will both be existentialists, believe in nothingness, and wander around Paris in trench coats and berets.

There are obstacles to my plan. Just this morning, my mother informed me that there was no way I was going to France this summer, because of economics. It’s ridiculous. What are family economics compared to my development as an existentialist? It’s not like they don’t have enough money when they want to—for example, when their favorite child, my little brother, Adam, needs a new laptop to practice chess simulations. Oh, did I mention that my brother is some kind of chess genius?

“My life is merde,” I told my mother. “Merde, do you hear me?”

“The whole Northeast hears you, Lotus.”

“I must go to Paris!”

“We can’t afford it right now, honey. You know your brother needs a new laptop, and if you haven’t noticed, the roof is in desperate need of repairs. And your father is between careers, so . . . to each according to their need, as Karl Marx would say, and you don’t need, emphasis need, to go to Paris right now.”

“But I do—I will die if I don’t.”

“No you won’t. You’ll be fine. You’ll finish high school. Take the SAT, go to college. Have a fulfilling career.”

“Like you, Maman?”

My mother kept chopping carrots into little pieces, as if they were the enemy. My mother has been especially irritable lately. She claims she is going through early menopause and insists on telling me about it, in the interests of mother-daughter bonding, although if we haven’t bonded by now, I fear it’s a little too late.

I recommended French homeopathic remedies to her, but all she wanted to do was complain. When she started talking about vaginal dryness and how someday this would happen to me, I put my hands over my ears and yelled, “Too much information!” until she stopped.

It is très difficult being me. I am trapped in a crumbling maison in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with crazy people who claim to be related to me. They insist on dinner every night at the unfashionable hour of six-thirty, like we are farm- hands. How am I supposed to develop a chic figure if I am forced to eat this starchy American food? Mon Dieu, we don’t even have a cheese course! Not that I’m grosse (fat), but I’m not mince (thin), either. My friend Joni says I’m curvy and that she’d love to have my figure. I do like the way I look for the most part. I’m a brunette, like most French women, and I have a frange (bangs) and a unique sense of style. But I do think that if I lost a few kilos, I’d probably look better in haute couture.

Mes parents scoff at all my ideas, but it’s not like they seem particularly happy about the boring way we do things now. When I told my mother that I was thinking of becoming a catholique, because everyone in France is catholique, her response was a groan and “Lotus, are you kidding me?”

School (sigh)

At nine o’clock in the morning—a little early for me—I was in English (advanced placement, can you believe it?). Ms. G, my teacher, is nice, though kind of tragic, I guess, because she lives alone and must be at least forty. If she were in France, she could be a mysterious older woman like Juliette Binoche or Isabelle Adjani, but here she’s merely old and invisible. It’s not that she wears horrible clothes, it’s just that her clothes don’t make enough of a statement. She needs scarves, accessories, more makeup, better hair. Her shoes scream comfortable (the kiss of death), and the drab colors she wears (black, black, and more black) don’t scream anything, they just whimper in the background. Black is chic on a younger woman like moi, but a femme of a certain age, well, she needs a little color.

diaries, Ms. G wrote on the board in big block letters, and I felt a frisson. (Frisson is also French, for shiver of excitement.) I had the frisson because I am all about diaries: I’ve been keeping a journal religiously for several years. My personal diary is not ready to be revealed to le monde (the world) yet, but I am still psyched to study the diary format, since it will help me perfect my craft.

In fact, I can see the future already. I will publish my diary and it will be a huge success, a phenomenon. I’ll be a teen sensation, bigger than Bridget Jones, bigger than John Lennon and the Dalai Lama, bigger than Lindsay Lohan. I am debating whether to call my oeuvre The Pillow Book of Lotus Lowenstein or Pensées of Lotus Lowenstein. Pensées are deep thoughts, in case you were wondering. I decided to ask Ms. G her opinion. She’s a good teacher, most of the time. I’m contemplating dedicating my book to her. Despite her brutal critiques, I feel she truly understands me.

Mardi, 13 Mars

Our first assignment is based on the diary of Sei Sh¯onagon, a lady-in-waiting to the Japanese court in 990, about a gazillion years ago. She started writing her pillow book because someone gave her a pillowcase full of paper, how random is that? She wrote lists of things she liked and didn’t like and talked about stuff that happened to her. Our homework is to write diary entries about our lives, à la Sei Sh¯onagon.

Assignment #1

Adorable Things

Duck eggs

An urn containing the relics of some holy person.

Wild pinks

—Sei Sh¯onagon

Things J’adore

French men (although I haven’t met any, I’m sure they would be charmant and we would drink many espressos and have mad, passionate affairs). I am a great believer in l’amour. Did I mention I am also an existentialist like Simone de Beauvoir, except she was bisexual and outdoorsy and I don’t think I am bisexual and I am definitely not outdoorsy.

J’adore my dog, Rags, whom I’ve renamed Pierre le chien (Pierre the dog). He is the only member of my family who does not condescend to me. Pierre is a mutt, but I feel that he has some purebred chien in him.

Vintage clothes—they look better on me than the insipid fashions of this time period.

Café, which is incredibly delicious. My father has been letting me have café au laits from the espresso machine I bought him for winter solstice (we’re Jewish, but we don’t believe in organized religion). I always put in lots of steamed milk, four sugars, and some powdered chocolate. C’est merveilleux.

—Lotus Lowenstein

P.S. Have you ever thought of getting a makeover, Ms. G? I think you’d be hot—I mean, très chic.

Ms. Lowenstein,

While I applaud your creative use of the diary format and your budding knowledge of French, I would greatly appreciate it if you would restrict yourself to the subject assigned and the requested word count. Also, please insert quotes from The Pillow Book.

Ms. G

Good effort overall!

Customer Reviews

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Pillow Book of Lotus Lowenstein 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
SimplySassy More than 1 year ago
This is the story of Lotus, a Brooklyn teenager who is a true French girl at heart, not to mention a serious fashionista!!!!! Lotus has a great voice and expresses herself so passionately. She has to cope with a genius for a little brother, an unemployed playwright father and a charity event hosting mother. Her best friend and her begin competing for the attention of the same cute guy and in the midst of all this she forms a French club and travels to Montreal! Whew!!! Lotus is a busy bee and an entertaining one. This is a quick, light, laugh out loud read and I recommend it for any age.
59Square on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lotus was named by a mother who was going through a Zen phase when she was born, and is burdened with lame jokes and Zen breathing as a result. This book was pretty uninteresting, and I finished it purposefully just to see what happened. The first three-fourths of the book deal with Lotus loving France, including a lot of French words, and dealing with her crazy family. Her father is writing an existential play and Lotus seems to know quite a lot about John Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, weirdly. She and her best friend fall in love with the same boy, and the three of them form a French Club which ends up going to Montreal. By the end of the book, both girls have seen him for what he really is, but it takes a long time and a toll on their friendship. A confusing book ¿ why would either girl put up with him? And the best part is the location ¿ New York City and Montreal. Not worth the effort I put into it.
stephxsu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lotus is obsessed with French culture. She swears by French dieting, idolizes French existentialists, and drops French words into her conversation and writing as much as possible. Lotus¿ dream is to move to Paris, immerse herself in the culture, and hopefully find a hot Parisian boyfriend. The only problem is, she¿s stuck in Brooklyn, New York, with stressed-out parents and a chess-master little brother who make light of her dedication to the French culture.When Lotus and her best friend, Joni, start a French club at school, they figure they¿ll be the only members¿until Sean walks in the room. New to school, Sean is cute and an existentialist, thus making him the perfect boy for both Lotus and Joni¿s affections. Sean doesn¿t seem to have a problem being with both of them at the same time, but the stress wears on Joni and Lotus¿ friendship. Will an upcoming French club trip to Montreal repair the girls¿ friendship, or has Sean destroyed it forever?Chatty, cute, and touching, Libby Schmais¿ YA debut, THE PILLOW BOOK OF LOTUS LOWENSTEIN, will satisfy fans of Helen Fielding¿s BRIDGET JONES¿ DIARY and Louise Rennison¿s Georgia Nicholson series.Lotus is a relatable protagonist whose obsession with French culture brings a flair of uniqueness to novels-in-diary-format. Lotus may be occasionally shallow, dumb, and obsessed, which will turn her off to readers who don¿t enjoy those kinds of characters, but she is loyal to her friends and family through and through. The most remarkable part of this book is Lotus¿ growth from self-obsessed, whiny teenager to a mature young woman, capable of making sacrifices for others, but still not above being good and true to herself. Often she doesn¿t quite know how she can help, but whether it¿s hanging around rehearsals while her father attempts to make his playwriting debut, or helping her teacher make over her life, she tries her utmost hardest and approaches everything she does with the complete goodness of her heart.The supporting characters are well drawn for a story told entirely in the protagonist¿s diary entries. There are underlying conflicts and subplots involving Lotus¿ parents, younger brother, teacher, grandmother¿Lotus¿ world is rich with interpersonal relationships, and the other people enhance Lotus¿ appeal as well, as she is an extrovert and shows her best side when she interacts with others. Sean is, admittedly, a bit weak as the supposed love interest, but his lack of character didn¿t disturb me as much because there was so many better and more important things going on.Overall, THE PILLOW BOOK OF LOTUS LOWENSTEIN is a great read if you enjoy novels written in diary entries, chatty main characters, and have ever thought of escaping your boring hometown for someplace more exotic. I hope that fans of Bridget Jones and Georgia Nicholson will give Lotus and her story a try, because this is a worthy addition to the subgenre. Vive la one and only Lotus!
Joyce Shaw More than 1 year ago
I adore this book... partly because I love all things french, but mostly because it was a beautifully entertaining piece of writing. I enjoyed it completely.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Lotus Lowenstein is enamored with all things French. She has been begging her parents to let her go to Paris during the summer, but her parents tell her they can't afford it. So, what's a girl to do? Start a French club, of course! Lotus decides to start a club at school to discuss all things French. At first, its only members are Lotus and her BFF, Joni. But then the cute new boy in school, Sean, decides to join, because he loves all things French, too. With a trip to Montreal and a lot of boy drama, this book is sure to please those who love everything French - from Parisian food to its hip style. It's even sure to please those who don't love French - and who don't know their croissants from their donuts. Written in diary style entries, Lotus is a fun and sweet character with lots of spunk. Surely, readers will enjoy her life and find themselves immersed in the story very quickly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago