August 16, 2007

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The Lemonade War, by Jacqueline Davies (Houghton Mifflin, 2007, 177 pages)
Reviewed by Lisa Parsons news@hippopress.com

Brother versus sister, who can sell the most lemonade in the six remaining days of summer vacation? Winner takes all. Thatís the premise of this childrenís novel that includes elementary business tips and number-crunching.

Itís a nice change from the common whodunit, this web of moral dilemmas and real-life choices. Should you steal your sisterís money? Did someone sabotage you? Is the popular kid on your side?

The incorporation of math and money into the story also sets The Lemonade War apart. The book includes, sprinkled through its 14 chapters, some written-out calculations, like how many cups of lemonade you need to sell to make $100.

Evan is good at people skills but less good at math and schoolwork. His sister Jessie is so good at schoolwork that sheís skipping third grade to join Evan in fourth ó yet another bit of friction between them ó but she is a little behind in emotional intelligence.

Itís not as simple as putting their complementary noggins together to create a thriving business (though they would be a formidable team), and thatís another cool thing about this book: the kids are realistic-smart, not cute fairy-tale smart. Youíve known kids like this.

Before the war concludes, they go through money-stealing and lemonade-sabotaging and a little hard-won realizing that war is not always worth it. Though it is resolved well, the Lemonade is not excessively sweet.

My seven-year-old apprentice, to whom I read the book, liked its complexity, its almost continual moments of life-altering (from a youthful perspective) decisions, and enjoyed its math, adding just a small complaint that it wouldíve been better to have a decisive winner and loser of the war rather than a grayish ending. I liked the ending just fine. A ó Lisa Parsons