Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff ISBN: 978-0739372050, Books on Tape, 2000
When fourteen year old LaVaughn thinks about taking a babysitting job to earn money for college, seventeen year old Jolly and her two little ones were not quite what she is expecting. Her apartment smells and is infested with cockroaches, but Jolly has had a hard life and does not have anyone to help her. LaVaughn’s mother thinks that Lavaughn is being taken advantage of and that Jolly needs to “take hold” of her life, but Lavaughn thinks that most people have not had to deal with the experiences that Jolly has had to deal with. In the end, Lavaughn finds out that even a little help can make a big difference in another person’s life.
Make Lemonade is the type of book that parents may like, but that the average teen may have a hard time relating to. LaVaughn, the main character, always does her homework, gets good grades, is focused on going to college, and tells her mother everything. She does not cuss, smoke or think about boys, and all her teachers love her. Her only “fault” is that she wants to help Jolly, a teen mother of two young children, and her mother thinks that she is helping Jolly too much and not paying enough attention to her own future. When listening to the audio book, it is hard to determine whether LaVaughn’s character is written weakly, or if it is merely the insipid voice that the reader uses for the main character. In contrast, Jolly is a much more interesting character who struggles with real problems and has emotional depth. When Jolly tells LaVaughn “I just can’t do it by myself no more,” both the writing and the reader’s rendition of the words are haunting. Make Lemonade tells Jolly’s story and is redeemed only by this character. It seems that the author has made the decision to make the violence and difficulties surrounding Jolly’s life one step removed from the main character. LaVaughn knows about Jolly’s problems, but has not experienced them for herself. Make Lemonade is a book that promotes Christian values. It also opens the door to teen understanding of the African-American experience.
Information about the author:
Virginia Euwer Wolf (born August 25, 1937) is an American author of children’s literature. Her award-winning series Make Lemonade features a 14-year-old girl named LaVaughn, who babysits for the children of a 17-year-old single mother. There are three books. The second, True Believer, won the 2001 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. The second and third, This Full House (2009), garnered Kirkus starred reviews.
Wolff was born in Portland, Oregon. She attended the girls’ school St. Helen’s Hall (now Oregon Episcopal School) and Smith College. She married Arthur Richard Wolff in 1959. They divorced in 1976.
Fourteen year old LaVaughn desperately wants to go to college and thinks that her good grades and a babysitting job may be her ticket out of projects.
Do you plan on going to college? What are you willing to do to get there?
Reading Level/Interest Age:
I would make sure that all material was purchased in accordance with my library’s collection development policy and make sure to keep a file containing positive reviews for books that I thought might be challenged. In the event of a challenge, I would actively listen to the parent’s concern and ask if they had read the book. I would then explain why the book had been added to the collection and provide with the reviews and a copy of the collection development policy. I would affirm that they are within their rights to limit what their children read, but that other parents also have the right to determine what their children can read. If all else failed, I would provide the parent with a reconsideration form.
Reasons for inclusion:
To provide insight into the African American experience.