Make Lemonade

Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff

 lemonade book cover

BIBLIO: 1993,New York: Henry Holt and Company, Ages 13 to 16.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
FORMAT: Young Adult book
ISBN: 978-0805080704

By writing this novel in poetry the story gains a whole lot of meaning. The short entries with breaks and lack of grammar and a distinctive vernacular show the disorganization and scrambled emotions of the characters. Narrated by LaVaughn, a fourteen year old girl, the reader peeks into the unfortunate life of Jolly, a seventeen year old mother, and her two children Jeremy and Jilly. LaVaughn takes the babysitting job as a way to earn money for college and after visiting for the first time, LaVaughn has more than enough incentive to get out of the neighborhood. Living in squalor and struggling paycheck to paycheck the small family gets turned upside down when Jolly loses her job. Despite all of this LaVaughn bonds closely with this little family, caring tenderly for the children and their fragile mother, be it through storytelling or bathtime she is determined to help. Unable to find work LaVaughn convinces Jolly to “take hold” by returning to school with the specialized Moms Up GED program. A unique look at Jolly’s hardship is seen through the contrasting bleeding heart LaVaughn and her tough love mother (through LaVaughn’s conversations with her and her occasional run-ins with Jolly). Several unexpected things happen, including “lemon bloms” and Jolly actually looking to change her family’s life. A heartwarming problem novel truly shows that you can “make lemonade” no matter the circumstances. This novel works through issues typically seen in inner-city communities like poverty, illiteracy, absentee fathers, pipe dreams of college, and picking oneself up again and again. I would recommend this book to girls from the latter half of 8th grade up until early 11th grade based on the content and comprehension levels.

Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant

Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant by Jack Prelutsky

collage elephant book cover

BIBLIO: 2006 GreenWillow Books/ HarperCollins publishers, ages 4 to 8, $17.89.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
​FORMAT: Picture Book
ISBN: 978-0-06-054318-1

Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant is a charming collection of poems written by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated using collages by Carin Berger. The short picture book has a total of seventeen different poems. Each poem showcases an individual animal object hybrid. The wording is at an easy to medium reading level with words such as “clamorous” “circumnavigates” and “proficiency” adding a dash of vocabulary. A quaint and useful touch is that each animal hybrid has a phonetic pronunciation guide for example “pan-thur-MOM-it-ur”. There are many ways to uses this book as a teaching tool. The rhyming is switches between the classic ABCB patterns and AABB patterns. There is a musical lilt to it and makes it easy to follow along and read independently. Entertaingly, Prelutsky’s love of music has influenced his poetry to the point where his poems can be performed as songs. The animals’ antics fit the objects of the hybrid well, such as the Splatoons calling out for syrup! It would be quite easy to keep young children absorbed in the details of the poems and the collages. This book would be a great start to an imaginative art project or daily writing exercise. The collages of mixed media of illustration and scrap paper is illustrative and adds a whimsy homemade feel. The collages contain subtle word art, for example the umbrellaphant is collaged out of what appears to be an arabic text and the shoehornets nest has a pattern of chinese characters. Poetry is painting with words and Berger did a great job at visually embodying that concept. This is a work with prestige. The Lee Bennett Hopkins Award is only given every three years! Jack Prelutsky is also very popular for his work Scranimals, a book the precedes Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant and hybrids animals with vegetables. He is the first Children’s Poetry Laureate the years 2006-2008 appointed by the Poetry Foundation.

Fresh and Delicious: Poems from the Farmers Market

Fresh and Delicious: Poems from the Farmers Market by Irene Latham, illustrated by Mique Moriuchi

Animals and fruit book cover

BIBLIO:2016, Honesdale, PA: Wordsong an Imprint of Highlights, Ages 5 to 8, $16.95.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
FORMAT: Picture book
ISBN: 978-1-62979-1103-6

A collection with lots of short, succinct, and yet vivid poems make this book is as fresh and delicious as the title claims. Moriuchi created colorful intriguing illustrations with acrylics and collage materials. The poems vary in the type and style and the movement on the page with the words and the pictures is notable. In the beginning of the book there is a table of contents and as an endnote there are simple recipes using the food from the book. Each page highlights a fruit or vegetable, showcased by charming little animals. There is a lot of descriptive writing techniques which make this book great for practicing similes and metaphors for older students. This book also works as a good selection to talk about health and nutrition. I would recommend this book for read-a-long and for assisted silent reading because some of the words used are a little advanced to read independently.

Poems in the Attic

Poems in the Attic by Nikki Grimes

girl reading poem, book cover

BIBLIO: 2015 New York: Lee & Low Books, Ages 4 to 7, $19.95.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
FORMAT: Picture book
ISBN:978-1-62014-027-7

This richly illustrated children’s book focuses on a seven year old girl visiting her grandmother for three days. She finds a box of poems her mother wrote about the places she lived as a young girl in a military family. Each poem the mother wrote is accompanied by the daughter’s reflection about the poem and her time with her grandmother. All of the poems are very reflective and show the fun each experiences, culminating in the daughter’s surprise book of poems for her mother. The mother’s poems are written in the Japanese style Tanka, and the daughter’s in free verse, both forms are explained in the back of the book. Each set of poems is set up with an oval cut-out illustration of the girl on the right and the mother’s memory and poem fill up the remaining one and a half pages of the two page spread. Zunon uses a combination of deeply colorful acrylics, oils, and collaging for each picture adding a sensory level to the stories the poems portray. This book can be used well as an introduction to poetry and the help children cope with moving, friends, family, and armed forces.