Summary: Shaking Up the House
Shaking Up the House is Yamile Saied Mendez’s middle-grade debut. You may be familiar with her YA debut, Furia. I love the cover of this book and thought the premise was so unique! Winnie and Ingrid Lopez are the first Latino First Daughters and their Papa’s tenure is just about done. The President-Elect (and first Female African-American President) has twin daughters Skylar and Zora. In a never-before-done move-in style, the Lopez’s allow the Williams family to move in with them seven weeks ahead of inauguration.
The Lopez girls have mixed feelings about leaving the White House after spending most of their childhood there. Twelve-year-old Winnie is eager to get away from under the public gaze and the pressure to be perfect, whereas 11-year-old Ingrid is sad to be leaving everything behind. Both girls decide to play some good-natured pranks on the Williams girls who are nervous about stepping into their new roles as First Daughters. When the Williams girls retaliate, it becomes a full-on prank war as both sets of daughters try to outdo each other.
This is a really fun book. It reminds me of stories like All Four Stars in the sense that it forces you to suspend your disbelief, while also wondering if this is what life is life for First Children. It also seemed very well researched, down to White House protocol and the way things work with staff and gatherings. The story is told from all four girls perspectives. While all four girls were nice enough, I felt most drawn to the introverted Zora who enjoys art and history, much in the same way I do.
The relationship between the girls and the White House staff is sweet and their parents are present just enough without getting in the way of their antics. I also liked seeing the sister bond between both sets of sisters, and a closer look at Skylar and Zora’s twin bond despite their different personalities. Most of the book’s focus is on life in the White House and all the perks and quirks of being a First Family, and Mendez handles the story honestly, yet sensitively and quite humorously too.
I’m not a fan of pranks and pranking in general, it feels unkind to me, no matter how it’s done. Yet, I could stomach the pranks the girls play on each other, perhaps because none of the pranks felt particularly mean-spirited or like bullying. There’s also a lot of apology and consequences which helps a bit. Still, if you’re buying this for your kids and you don’t like pranks, it might not be a good fit for your family.
Overall: Shaking Up the House
Shaking Up the House is a fun, insightful look at life in the White House, featuring an optimistically diverse set of First Families. This middle-grade book explores a variety of themes from public perception, racial prejudice, the bonds of sisterhood and family, as well as the need for basic kindness. There’s also a First Ferret, which may be a fun addition for kids who enjoy books about animals. The story is also told from four perspectives (in third person POV) which is fantastic for those looking for books with multiple narrators or POVs. If you’re looking for a funny, enjoyable, quick read (and you don’t mind pranks) this would be an excellent choice.
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Have you read this book or anything by Yamile Saied Mendez? What are your favorite middle-grade books about sisters? And how do you feel about pranks? I’d love to hear!