DiscoverMiddle Grade

The Trials and Tribulations of Lily Tripitaka


Must read 🏆

The Trials and Tribulations of Lily Tripitaka does a great job explaining how basic Buddhism concepts apply to everyday life.

The Trials and Tribulations of Lily Tripitakas is an excellent quick read, full of insight on how Buddhism applies to every day life, especially those of Lily Tripitaka! Set in the English suburb of West Finchley, nine-year-old Lily lives with both parents and her sister. She is atypical of a middle school student, living in a suburb of London.

While not wealthy, her family has enough means to eat-out and not want for anything. That said, Lily has the typical questions about the 'why did this happen' that any middle school student would have. The book starts with the question, why did I get punished for someone else throwing an eraser at me?

Many of her answers come from the sage Uncle at a Chinese take-away at Green Cottage. Uncle, the takeaway lady's husband, was not really her uncle. In Southeast Asia, everyone older than you were called Uncle or Aunty. And being in their mid-70's, they were quite a bit older than Lily, and Uncle was happy to share the teachings of Buddhism with Lily, when she asked 'why did this happen'.

Uncle's sage wisdom shows Lily that there eraser incident did not just happen; there were a chain of events that led up to it. He teaches her about the truth of suffering (all people experience loss), karma (you can't change what is inevitable), wisdom, compassion, impermanence (nothing is permanent) and mindfulness (concentrating on the moment). Of all of these principles, Uncle explains, the most important is love and kindness. The book takes a sad twist when Lily learns that her Mom has cancer, and she is faced with the pain of knowing her Mum might die (not a pleasant subject for anyone, particularly someone in middle school).

Uncle helps assuage her fears by explaining death is not something to be feared. People are afraid of death for one of two reasons; the fear of the unknown, and attachment to the ones we love, our possessions, or our sense of self. He points out when we die we simply change form.

The author does a great job in describing the characters. She aptly describes Uncle with his buck teeth and bald head, and it is easy to see them conferring with one another, as he listens to her latest issue at school. Not all advise comes from Uncle. In a running competition, Mr Harold, the coach explains how it is not important compete to win, but to better your performance so you improve upon it. The lesson, not all people are cut out to do the same thing. One may excel at math, while another is superb at running. The morale of that story is to not judge your worth in comparison to others.

We recommend you put this on your must read list, whether you are interested in learning more about Buddhism or just want a story that would appeal to any middle school student.

Reviewed by

I am an award-winning journalist, communications professional, and photographer. I wanted to combine my love of writing with my passion for cats. The result: my blog at Paws for Reflection with BJ Bangs.


About the author

A practising Buddhist, Mei lives in London with her husband and daughter Lily. She is presently writing the sequel to her debut novel, trying to not conspicuously take notes every time her daughter gets up to no good. view profile

Published on August 12, 2019

30000 words

Genre: Middle Grade

Reviewed by