Lights! Camera! Action! The main character, eleven-year-old Lulu, lives in La La Land, which cannot always be easy when everyone around you is constantly striving to be so perfect on the outside. I was intrigued by the book Lulu in La La Land first by the location, since it takes place in LA and highlights many spots around town, and second because the main character lives in Bel Air and doesn’t exactly fit into her glitzy Hollywood family. She is not interested in beautifying herself, parties, or celebrities, but has other interests like gardening, baking, and science experiments.
After reading the first couple of pages, I was hooked. The author Elisabeth Wolf has written the entire book as a script (how perfect for LA!) and geared it towards nine to twelve-year olds. However, I think this is a perfect book for any age, even adults. I adore how the text is spaced out like a script, making it an easy, pleasurable read. Most importantly, this script-book leaves the reader with an important message: Be yourself!
After listening to author Elisabeth Wolf read from her book and share the plot to the kids at Seven Arrows Elementary School, I knew I wanted to ask her even more questions than even the kids did. She kindly shared her responses below. Cut!
Q: Where did you get your ideas for the book? Are you like Lulu, the main character who doesn’t fit into her Hollywood glitzy family life?
A: My ideas to write Lulu in LA LA Land came from all the bits and pieces of my own life. I grew up in West LA and had “Not Fitter-Inner” stamped all over me. While kids drove around in BMWs, squeezed into Calvin Klein jeans, and snuck into clubs on Sunset, I showed my collie in dog shows, spent weekends with my family at our ranch in Big Sur, and rode an orange Schwinn bicycle to high school. I had lots of time to ponder what it’s like to be a kid and feel like an outsider from a world that seems perfect.
Q: What inspired you to write a book? What did you do as your previous job?
A: I now have two children who have grown up in Los Angeles. When they were little, we realized that there were no books about kids in LA. New York had Eloise. Paris had Madeline. LA just had … well … TV shows.
As my children progressed through school here in LA, I watched them each realize what might look glammy and perfect on the outside may not be beautiful and comfortable on the inside. Their experiences finally got me to give up what I had been doing before and write Lulu in LA LA Land.
I had been a press secretary and communications director for politicians and elected officials – all great training for writing for children! I learned to write quickly and in short, simple sentences. I also spent lots of time creating and inventing ideas and stories (especially in the heat of campaigns).
Q: What age range or audience do you think LuLu in LaLaLand would be appropriate for?
A: Lulu is considered a Middle Reader, which usually means ages 9-12. My nephew and niece have read it, and they are younger. And my daughter and her friends have read it, and they are older. So, it’s really a range. The feeling of being a Not Fitter Inner has no age limit!
Q: Did it take a long time to write LuLa in LaLa Land? Did you have a publisher (right away)?
A: It did not take long for me to actually write Lulu, once I buckled down and decided I wanted to get the book done. It did take me a long time to RE-write. I learned that writing is less about writing and more about re-writing. I did not have a publisher when I started writing. After years of tinkering, a writer friend of mine told me to “just get Lulu out into the marketplace.” She was totally right. Within a couple of months, I was lucky enough to get wonderful agents and the book sold right away.
Q: How long have you lived in LA? What are some of your favorite LA spots?
A: I have lived in LA on and off since I’ve been about five. I have also lived in Massachusetts, Maine, Washington, DC, and Palo Alto, CA. My favorite LA places all have something in common – they can ONLY be found in our city.
Here’s a list:
Santa Monica Mountains (Wow! Those hikes that take you above the ocean?!);
Abbot Kinney and Venice area (the shops, the people, and feeling of living in a creative, honest, open way);
3rd Street (the blocks between Fairfax and La Cienega);
Bike path along the beach and down to Playa Vista;
Theodore Payne Foundation (this is among LA’s oldest and most dedicated native plant nursery and education center);
Santa Monica and Hollywood Farmer’s Markets (the colors, smells, and vibrancy of these large markets all year long make LA, well, incredible)
Q: What are some of the LA spots that are featured in your book?
A: Lulu loves nature and embraces the natural world around her. She talks about Heal the Bay and cleaning up LA and Santa Monica beaches. She also loves her dog as well as cupcakes and cheesy/meaty food. So, places Lulu goes in the book: Chateau Marmutt; Joan’s On Third; and Beverly Hills Hotel Counter.
Lulu’s celebrity parents and fancy lifestyle has her out in places that are also glamorous and cool: Mr. Chows; Bel Air Hotel Spa; and Fred Segal.
There’s a fun scene that takes place in a great LA/BH place: Monogrammit. The store is owned and run by the creative and kind, Elisa. She can personalize anything from a tissue holder to a pair of high top Converse tennis shoes.
Q: What do you think makes LA so special or such a fantastic city?
A: Los Angeles offers everything! When I read with kids in other states, they mostly know the Hollywood side of LA, but what makes LA incredible is that in addition to the glam and glitz, it is a place you can harvest tomatoes in January; walk into any restaurant in jeans; and see a Van Gogh painting in a carefully lit museum and then walk outside the building a see the Pacific Ocean sparkling in the distance.
Q: What message do you hope children or adults will learn by reading your book LuLu?
A: The message for adults and children is the same: being a little different is wonderful as long as you are yourself. Lulu and LA are lots alike – both are unique and both embrace sights, sounds, creativity, imagination, and … well … a bit of Hollywood magic.
If you want more Lulu, she has made it to Hawaii too, check out the latest Lulu in Honolulu.