Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Popularity Papers: The Rocky Road Trip of Lydia and Julie

The Popularity Papers: The Rocky Road Trip of Lydia and Julie

Amy Ignatow
Fiction  Series
For ages 9 to 12
Abrams, 2012   ISBN: 978-1419701825

Sixth grade is over for best friends Lydia and Julie. The summer awaits them and they immediately start thinking about what they are going to do. Julie wants to go to a Youth Arts Workshop, and Lydia is wondering if it would be a good idea for her to go to a martial arts camp. Then Julie’s dads and Lydia’s mother announce that they are going to have a Double Family Meeting. The girls are both excited and suspicious when they hear this news. The last time they had a Double Family Meeting the parents announced that they were planning a family vacation.

   When they all get together, Lydia’s mother announces that she has been asked to go back to London for the summer. The girls are all ready to protest when the adults add that Lydia has a choice. She can go with her mother, or she can go to California with Julie and her dads. Julie’s Papa Dad’s parents live in San Francisco and they need help moving. When the move is complete the plan is to drive back across the country bringing a trailer of stuff to Papa Dad’s sister, who lives in Ohio. Along the way they will stop to visit Lydia’s dad who lives in Colorado and Daddy’s parents, who live in St. Louis.

   After a little thought Lydia decides to go to California with Julie. After all, it would be a good idea to see her dad. The last visit she and her sister had with him did not go so well. Perhaps this time things will be better.

   The adventure starts off being very enjoyable. Julie’s dads help Papa Dad’s parents move into their new home, and the girls spend some time with their friend Suki, who is also visiting San Francisco. Then the four of them start driving, stopping at a few interesting places along the way. Papa Dad loves to share “Fun Facts” with the girls and his husband, some of which are really quite interesting. He has tried to choose stopping spots that he thinks they will all enjoy. In Fresno they visit some underground gardens and experience a small earthquake.  

   After being scared half to death they head away from California (and its earthquakes) as fast as they can and head into Arizona and then on to Albuquerque in New Mexico. The girls enjoy going to a minor league baseball game and find out all kinds of Fun Facts about rattlesnakes when they visit the Rattlesnake Museum.

   Then they drive north to Pueblo, Colorado, where Lydia’s dad lives with his new wife and her two sons. Lydia tries not think about how awful her last visit was. Surely this time things will be different. Not long after arriving in Pueblo, Julie and her dads leave so that Lydia can have some quality time with her father for a few days. The visit begins with Lydia’s father taking them all to a park where they go whitewater rafting. Things go well enough until Lydia’s stepbrothers start acting up and she retaliates by throwing one of them into a very shallow river.

   The next day Lydia’s father announces that he has work to do and he proceeds to ignore his daughter completely. His wife takes Lydia to have her nails done, but this experience does not blunt Lydia’s hurt and angry feelings. Lydia is so upset that she decides to dye her hair blue using Kool-Aid. Needless to say, Lydia’s father flips when he sees her blue hair and he refuses to have anything further to do with her.

   When Lydia is reunited with her friends and they continue their journey, Julie and her dads do their best to try to cheer Lydia up. She just can’t seem to get over how unpleasant her father is. Then she meet Daddy’s parents and she begins to see that she is not the only one who has a parent who is unkind and unaccepting.

   In this delightful new Popularity Papers title we not only get to share a grand adventure with Julie and Lydia, but we also see how the characters deal with family members who are not as kind or understanding as perhaps they should be. We see the girls, and the dads, cope with people who hurt their feelings with their words and actions. Lydia and Julie come to appreciate that though one cannot choose one’s parents, one can at least choose the people whom we consider family, and in the long run these ‘adopted’ family members are the ones we count on to be there for us.