As an adult who is obsessed with books, I don’t often pay that much attention to how books are categorized by the publishing companies. Young adult books have long been on my radar with no remorse. I will admit, however, that until recently, I hadn’t picked up a ton of middle-grade books and read them unless I was reading them aloud to my daughter or reading them before she had a chance to read them in order to make sure they were okay. When I went to go write this blog post, however, I realized that I couldn’t actually write an educated article without reading the book myself. I was pleasantly shocked at what a well written book it is and the multitude of levels it is written on.
The Lemonade War is the first in a series of books that was written in 2009 and has been highly popular for the upper elementary grades. The School Library Journal summarizes the book as follows: “Evan Treski and his younger sister, Jessie, get along well in many ways. They play together, and their natural talents are complementary. Jessie is a whiz in math and other school subjects, but feelings were her weakest subject. Evan is competent in the social arena, but he is not such a good student. Their relationship changes the summer between Evan’s third and fourth grades, when a letter arrives announcing what the boy sees as total disaster for him. He and his bright, skipping-third-grade sister will be in the same class. Thus begins the Lemonade War over which child can make the most money during the last week before school.”
J picked this book up one day after a long day at tennis camp and finished it in one afternoon. When I asked her specifics, I got some of the following details.
- The war started because they wanted to decide who could get the most money. They were both going into the same grade because Jessie was skipping 3rd grade. So they are both trying to get $100 and they can get help, like asking friends to sell with them.
- Jessie is book smart and Evan is people smart.
- My favorite part was when Jessie saw that a piece of paper with Evan’s writing on it had Megan Moriarty and she realized that Evan liked her.
- Jessie was going to donate her money to charity. Her friend Megan helped her and they made more than $200. She was going to donate the money to the animal rescue league, but didn’t get to because Evan’s friend Scott had stolen the money.
- I would have donated to charity but I would also have used some of it to buy myself a book and puzzles.
I realize that these are pretty vague generalizations. J loves to read but she does not like to talk about the books, especially when someone actually asks her a question – unless we have a group of kids over and everyone is answering questions. I think she is more forthcoming in school, but with me I get minimalistic answers. That was a big reason that I realized that I had to read the book. So here were some of the things that I found when reading the book.
- The main conflict of the book comes from the fact that while Evan really likes his sister, when he finds that not only is she skipping third grade but that she will be in his class for fourth grade, he gets angry. Jessie is better in school than Evan and he doesn’t want his little sister showing him up in class. Evan doesn’t know how to explain this well to Jessie so instead he just ignores her. Normally the pair enjoy running a lemonade stand together, but because Evan wants to stay away from Jessie, they wind up running two separate stands.
- The secondary conflict in this story has to do with miscommunications. Evan and Jessie are kids and they are having a hard time telling each other how they are feeling. Evan focuses on his anger about Jessie being in his class rather than admit his fears. Jessie keeps trying to get Evan to play with her and see how much fun she is, but he thinks that she is mocking him. If the two would just talk it out, they could have avoided the war in the first place.
- Each chapter starts with a definition of a business term in words that make sense for younger kids. That term is also the main focus of that chapter, but it is a great way to teach some new vocabulary. Similarly, there are some great insights into running a business and dealing with people in general. Jessie collects these in her lock box for later use.
- There are wonderful math problems throughout the book and interesting discussions about how to solve them. It even touches on the notion that different people approach math problems in different ways. It was nice to show kids how the topics that they are learning are relevant in everyday life.
- Interesting approach to the fact that right around 2nd and 3rd grade there are a ton of social changes in kids. This was highlighted by the fact that Jessie is oblivious to social cues and needs direction from Evan. As much as we like to push our kids and see them excel, this is another reason that pushing gifted kids ahead a year can be detrimental. So much of what they learn in school is also about learning to deal with social situations. Some intellectually gifted children can need additional time developing social skills.
Both J and I really enjoyed this book. It has a lexile level of 630 and is aimed primarily at 2-5th graders. That seems pretty accurate to me. As seen from the different things that J and I took away from the book, kids in different grades will read it in different ways.
Author Jacqueline Davies also wrote a wonderful article for the International Literacy Association that you can read here. It includes some activities for teachers and homeschoolers or really amazing parents.
Regardless of any activities you do with this book, it is definitely one that you and your kids should read.