Lemonade Liberty Witt has a mother who is a free spirit full of love. Lemonade has lots of friends and likes living in the city. But death erases the life she knows. Her mother dies of cancer. Lemonade is sent to live with Charlie, a grandpa she doesn’t know who lives in a rural town, Willow Creek, the dorky so-called “Big Foot Capital of the World”. What’s worse, her grandpa runs the Big Foot Souvenirs and More store downtown. All Lemonade wants to do is return to her former existence and stop feeling the overwhelming pain of grief. Then she meets Tobin, an oddball kid who has his own Big Foot Detective Agency. Like Lemonade, Tobin has struggles. His strict adherence to rules and dedication to finding the elusive Sasquatch make him a glowing target for bullies. He has not seen his father since his dad was freed from imprisonment in Vietnam. Expected to board a plane to return home, his father, instead, disappears. Tobin is convinced his father will return and soon. Lemonade becomes Tobin’s Big Foot-hunting assistant and, many Sasquatch expeditions and intense disagreements later, they become buddies. Eventually, Lemonade develops more friendships with locals both young and old. Ultimately, she realizes that these caring townsfolk and, most importantly her grandfather, love her and she has forged a new family in this new place.
Melissa Savage, the story’s author, expertly weaves common threads through the tale: we all suffer loss, it gets better over time if we let others in, life’s not fair, but we are strong and love (and friendship) conquer all. The topic of death seems heavy, but the humorous banter between Lemonade and Tobin, along with the adventure of Sasquatch hunting, balances the story. FYI: There is some dialogue about the need to pee in the woods and a brief mention of the difference between male and female Sasquatch (one has stuff up top). Because a main topic is grief, the book is best read by 5th or 6th grade students or shared aloud and discussed with younger readers.
Written by Melissa Savage
Accelerated Reader Level 4.1
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A unique and strong-willed girl named Donut is the star of my newest scout, A Stitch in Time, set in the 1930’s and written by Daphne Kalmar. Donut’s name is as unusual as her life. Her mom passes when Donut is just a baby, she spends her time hanging out with Sam, a taxidermist, learning to stuff birds and mice that she finds in the woods of Vermont and Tiny, her sweet, “not-so-tiny” friend. Her father is a dreamer and that suits Donut just fine. But when he suddenly dies, Donut’s Aunt Agatha arrives from Boston to care for her. Not only does she serve oatmeal for breakfast and turnips at supper, both of which are on Donut’s “don’t-care-for-list”, but she plans to uproot Donut and take her back to the big city to live with her and Aunt Jo. Donut, still grieving for her dad, wants no part of that arrangement, so devises schemes of her own. When those fail, she concocts an ill-thought-out plan to run away and stay in a friend’s cabin. Donut must cross a lake, keep warm, and deal with the woods at night. Nonetheless, fueled by her anger at everyone, from Sam for not successfully helping her stay, to her aunt, to Tiny, who can’t keep a secret, to, ultimately, her father for leaving her, she stays for days aware of the worry and fear she is causing everyone. A blazing fire brings the story high drama and propels Donut to make decisions and realizations about her life, future and the people in it.
Kalmar brings Donut’s experiences in the woods to life with depth of description that will draw in readers. I recommend this book for the older end of intermediate chapter book readers, grades 4 or 5 through 6. Some of the language of the time may need explaining, although it is entertaining, “the cabin was as dull as ditchwater.” But more so, there are references to smoking a pipe, drinking and a sprinkling of words such as damn and, at one point, Donut talks about how swearing makes her feel better. Emphasizing that it’s a work of FICTION, may be in order for impressionable partakers.
Written by Daphne Kalmar
No Accelerated Reader quiz yet exists
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After the loss of his mama, eleven-year-old Langston is uprooted from his home in Alabama. His father needs to escape the painful memories of the death of his wife and to seize the opportunity in Chicago to earn a better living. For Langston, being transplanted only exacerbates his grief. Not only is he in mourning, but he deeply misses all of what Alabama means to him: a loving grandma, aunt, cousins, friends, rural life, kind folks and southern cooking. In Chicago, Langston is bullied by three boys, only one neighbor speaks to him, people, trash, even buildings are tightly stacked and his dad’s cooking is awful. Respite comes when Langston stumbles upon a library. In 1946 Alabama, libraries are not accessible to blacks. But, in this Chicago branch, all residents are welcome. A librarian guides Langston to the poetry section and the works of Langston Hughes. The writing of Hughes connects on a soul level with Langston and launches events that help young Langston understand more about the people in his life from bullies, to family to himself. A well-crafted story of love, loss and compassion. Lesa Cline Ransome has designed a chapter book short in length, but long on complex characters and powerful messages.
Lesa Cline-Ransome follows her novel with an Author’s Note. In it, she provides background on the time period, from the 1940’s through the 1970′,s during which a steady stream of blacks relocated from the South to the North in search of increased liberties and the ability to financially prosper. The author also expands on the library central to the story, a Chicago landmark, conceived by and named after Dr. Hall, an influential black doctor and community leader. The Hall Library showcased the lives and work of successful black writers and was the actual spot where Langston Hughes spent time drafting his own life story.
This would make a great read-aloud, particularly as part of celebrating Black History Month!
Written by Lesa Cline-Ransome. Copyright 2018. Accelerated Reader Level 4.5
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Audio Book or Kindle