01 June 2007

Cost of The Lemonade War

Jacqueline Davies’s The Lemonade War is, I thought, a surprisingly dark book. Not that it’s truly dark in the “edgy” sense. But in a middle-grade novel about two siblings feuding over lemonade, I wasn’t expecting to find intractable problems that can’t be wrapped up. The book has a nice tight plot, but some situations don’t lend themselves to nice tight plots.

Most striking for me, young Jessie is academically smart enough to skip a grade, but also needs tips from her older brother Evan on interpreting face and body cues. From my adult perspective, it’s clear she’ll still have some tough times at school even though she can handle all the math easily. The Lemonade War is a rare book featuring a kid with those gifts and challenges.

And then there’s the book’s business lesson. I’m not talking about the kid-sized demonstrations of marketing and management concepts that pop up throughout (e.g., joint venture, underselling, crisis management). I’m talking about the bottom line--which in literary terms means ***SPOILERS*** will follow.

I did the math, and here’s how the young lemonade sellers approach the job and what they appear to end up with at the end of the book.

Paul, Jack & Ryan - spend one day helping a buddy sell more lemonade than his pesky little sister

Evan - work your tail off selling lemonade, make a bad choice, confess to your sister, share what you’ve learned

Jessie - work your tail off selling lemonade, make a bad choice, confess to your brother, share what you’ve learned

Megan - be cute enough to attract guys, help the little new girl in your grade, sell lemonade for a couple of days to benefit charity

Scott - steal whatever cash you see when you’re not being observed
That can’t be right, can it? It’s a realistic picture of how the world works too often, in the elementary-school years or in business, but who wants the real world in middle-grade? I demand a sequel! Something like Scott Gets Crushed Like a Bike Helmet Under the Tire of Life.

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