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Home > Reading Comprehension > book reviews > Make Lemonade

Book Review: Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff

Title, Author & Publisher:Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff (Scholastic, Inc)

Length: 200 pages without illustrations, so it may be intimidating. It's "shorter than it looks" because the writing style ends lines where a thought ends, so most lines don't go to the ends of the page.

Print size: small

Other readability issues: Make Lemonade is written in first person, a well-organized stream-of-consciousness. It is a good introduction to "first person" writing and the ideas that the reader and some of the characters may know more than the narrator, and that this style is more focused on how the character is feeling from event to event. However, the device is not used to surprise the reader as it might in a mystery or suspense novel. More importantly, much of the descriptions are concrete and visual, such as "The mirror is smeared with toothpaste. The kitchen floor has the creamed spinach I spilled a month ago. I pull up a corner of the living room curtain and smell it: you'd die."

The plot is linear and we go where LaVaughn goes. We do not have to make a lot of inferences, based on her perceptions; she does enough detailed describing to keep the reader from being confused. Again, though, there are many opportunities to figure out the 'bigger picture' from LaVaughn's first-person interpretation. There are also enough detailed visual descriptions so that students could draw different scenes in the book, or before/after descriptions of the same location.

Defining theconflictis a bit more abstract than in most books, since the conflict is between LaVaughn and Jolly and poverty, determining how much one person can help another, and whether or not LaVaughn is helping Jolly - or somehow taking advantage of her for her ticket out of poverty.

The 'free-form' writing style can also be used by the reader to know to pause where a line ends, rather than waiting for a comma or period. While this will seem obvious to some readers, it's a good idea to bring this up at the beginning. A good book for middle or high-schoolers, this has more"people" than "action" issues, and the main characters are all females.

"Maturity issues" -- while the book is a "contemporary urban" novel, there are no situations or language that would be considered inappropriate to the middle or high school reader. (If you were reading this aloud and the parish priest or a parent drifted by, you would not have any explaining to do, although the descriptions of the untidy apartment can be vivid.)

Summary: Fourteen-year-old Lavaughn answers a babysitting ad because she wants a part time job to save money for college and finds the offer comes from a 17-year-old single mother.

Typical words: Typical multisyllable/irregular words - you may want to see how many of these words your students can identify before expecting them to read independently (I strongly recommend that the book be read with the students, especially ones who may not have had success with independent reading before.)

























More Comments::

  • This book really lends itself to descriptive writing exercises, providing example after example of writing that puts you where the writer is.


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