________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 31. . . .April 15, 2016


Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts.

Esta Spalding. Illustrated by Sydney Smith.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2016.
242 pp., hardcover & ebook, $19.99 (hc).
ISBN 978-1-770498761 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-770498778 (ebook).

Grades 3-7 / Ages 8-12.

Review by Aileen Wortley.

***½ /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



“Ouch,” said Pippa as Toby lay down on the backseat beside her. “Move your head”

“Move it where?” asked Toby.

“I don’t know,” said Pippa, “but it doesn’t fit.”

“He can’t just take off his head,” Kimo offered from the front seat.

“We’re too crammed in back here,” Pippa complained, and then she added the words that Kim had been dreading: “We don’t fit anymore.”

Before Kim could contradict her, Toby burst into tears and said, “What happens if I don’t fit?”

Kim turned around in her seat and mopped up his tears with a tissue. She had no idea how to answer him. She couldn’t offer to sleep in the back…that would make things worse. And there wasn’t room for Toby with her in the front. If they took out all their clothes and suitcases and food and books and the cooler out of the trunk, could one of them sleep there?

She heard Kimo’s door swing open, and she turned to look. He was climbing out of the car. “Take my seat,” he said to Toby.


Four children, aged between 5 and 11, live on a beautiful island. Despite their confusing, overlapping parentage, Kim, Pippa and Toby (Fitzgerald) and Kimo (Trout), band together in solidarity as the only family they know. They live in a small green car while their preposterous parents live in luxury. Too busy to care for their children, they do manage to toss them a little cash occasionally, quite insufficient for their needs.

      Despite their flaky heritage, the children are surprisingly responsible. Kim, the eldest, a worry-wart, realises the family has outgrown its limited space and can no longer sleep in such cramped quarters. Finding a house is a priority. The search for proper accommodation leads to a number of adventures, including a night at an Ikea-like furniture store and braving an iguana-infested forest. Extra plot undulations revolve around the disappearance of Kimo’s father in a canoe, the islanders’ belief they are descended from aliens, and the sudden arrival of a new baby sister.

      This delightfully absurd story is sure to catch a young reader’s imagination. They will empathize with kids who resourcefully cope with no caring adult support while vicariously revelling in their immunity from parental strictures. They will envy them their freedom to bathe in the ocean, drive a car, go to a drive-in movie, the library or laundromat as the mood takes them.

      The main characters are appealing, enterprising and capable, with their own personalities. The plot intrigues, engaging us in the youngster’s problems and their adventures, involve many twists and surprises. There are moments of real tension, such as the forest scene when frightening iguanas leap on the car, “thwack, thwack!”

      Esta Spalding, poet and screenwriter, adds another little twist in her debut novel for middle-graders appearing as both narrator and character in the book. Award-winning Sidney Smith’s whimsical illustrations capture the zany flavour of the story. Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts all quite nonsensical, but readers aged 8-12 will happily suspend belief at this implausible but compelling story full of quirky characters and even quirkier incidents and will anticipate the sequel promised by the ending.

Highly Recommended.

Aileen Wortley is a retired librarian living in Toronto, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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