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Just Juice (Scholastic Signature) Paperback – November 1, 1999

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Editorial Reviews Review

Newbery Medal-winning novelist Karen Hesse--known for her painterly ability to re-create historical worlds for young readers--turns her attention this time to a contemporary family that lives as if in another era. The engrossing, eight-member Faulstich family, residents of an Appalachian hill village perhaps in Kentucky or West Virginia, has learned to endure impoverished conditions ever since Pa got laid off from the mine. Only the children are guaranteed a "sandwich" each day (bread spread so thin with jelly "you can hardly find the purple"); there are no regular doctor or dentist visits, even for Ma, who is carrying another baby; and the only surprise presents at Christmas are the ones the older girls make at school.

Smack in the middle of this brood is the narrator, 9-year-old Juice Faulstich, a sweet, resilient tomboy who likes to explore and learn. She gets along well with her big and little sisters, has talent as an apprentice metalworker in her Pa's makeshift shop, and forgets every worry when she's dancing to fiddle music. She's so capable, in fact, she's the family member all the little ones look up to the most. Yet it turns out that the highly skilled Juice, who can handle everything from power tools to her Pa's depression ("We all look out for him. But I look out for him best, even Ma says so") is plagued by an inability to understand letters and reading. "No one believes me. No one believes how hard I try. No matter what I do, it's never enough," she explains.

With wonderfully gentle narrative pacing, Just Juice weaves together a compelling plot that involves Juice's learning challenges, Ma's suddenly difficult pregnancy, and a pending foreclosure on the family house due to unpaid taxes. It may sound bleak, yet in Hesse's able hands the Faulstich clan remains hopeful, creative, and kind with one another throughout--almost even more so when things seem the darkest. This fine book abounds with memorable and true images of family love, personal perseverance, and unexpected, effervescent breakthroughs. (Ages 8 and older) --Jean Lenihan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Like her Newbery Award-winning Out of the Dust, Hesse once again celebrates a child's ability to extract beauty, pleasure and even signs of hope from her harsh surroundings. The opening image of Ma "spreading grape jelly so thin on the sliced white bread you can hardly find the purple" gives readers an immediate, vivid impression of the Faulstich family's poverty level. The simple, honest narrative of nine-year-old Justus ("Juice") Faulstich matter-of-factly expresses her plethora of concerns: Pa is out of work again; Ma is pregnant and keeps having dizzy spells; and she herself has to repeat third grade because no matter how hard she tries, she simply can't learn to read. On top of that, the family must come up with back taxes amounting to $1000. The outside world may be cold and cruel ("Poor as Job's turkey, that's what the church ladies say we are"), but Juice doesn't let it overshadow the warmth of her home: "We might not belong to anyone else in this whole world. But us Faulstiches, we belong to each other." Hesse's poignant story of a family faced with seemingly insurmountable hurdles is filled with small triumphs and momentary insights. Juice's resourcefulness and faith in her father set him onto a vocational path, but also lead her to the realization that, as she learns to read, she may have to leave him behind: "Pa and me, we've been careful tiptoeing around this particular secret. But I can't let Pa's half of the secret keep me from doing something about mine." This brave heroine will pass the torch to readers everywhere; her courage is infectious. Ages 8-10.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Series: Scholastic Signature
  • Paperback: 138 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks; 1st Edition 1st Printing edition (November 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0590033832
  • ISBN-13: 978-0590033831
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #144,758 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 2, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love this book because it depicts a truly loving family--rare in literature today, without sentimentalizing their economic difficulties and personal problems. The beauty is that the characters accept one another for what and who they really are, while at the same time they help each other to improve. Karen Hesse skillfully avoids the trap that causes many writers to inflict stereotypical "mainstream" goals on their characters, casting the poor or the unprofessional person in an unfavorable light. Juice is a girl secure in her own being, confident in her goal to work as a machinist in her father's shop. Both she and he are illiterate, a problem that will be solved, with the help of an understanding mother and new determination. Literacy, however, will not change the basic goal or the family unity that exists from the introduction of these lovable characters (a mom who takes time to cherish each child and to praise her illiterate, sometimes confused husband as a "business tycoon!"). Literacy will not turn Juice into a doctor or a lawyer; indeed, it will crystalize her personality and enable her to function even better than she already does. The scenes are memorable, the dialogue and narrative in perfect keeping with the setting, and the characters live on long after the story is told.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Eric C. Waldemar, Jr. on December 5, 2003
Format: Paperback
I used this book as a read aloud with my third grade class in New York City. A few of the children have been struggling with reading since they began school, and I felt that those students might connect with the main character in some way, shape, or form. I was not prepared for the profound impact this book would have on all of my students. As a class, they were moved to tears towards the end of this story. During our book talks, I watched children who have hesitated at speaking during literature discussions finally raise their hands and share their thoughts. They know a person like Juice, some are just like Juice. This book broke down an invisible wall in my classroom, allowing my children to have an open, honest dialogue about their own difficulties with reading and matters of the heart. "Just Juice" has changed the way many of my children view themselves as readers, students, and little people. I thank you, Karen Hesse. My students thank you.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Calvin Cheng on March 23, 2002
Format: Paperback
Just Juice is a novel written by Karen Hesse. It is about a child named Justus Faulstich, an illiterate child who prefers to be called Juice. She lives in the country with her poor family, composed of her Pa, Ma, and four sisters, Markey, Charleen, Lulu, and Turtle. The family has to deal with many problems, which include Ma¡¦s expecting a baby, Juice¡¦s truancies, and Pa¡¦s financial and job troubles. One day, Pa receives a letter saying that their house has been sold to pay off the owed expenses, especially taxes. Since Ma is expecting a baby, Pa decides hide the truth from her and see what he can do to make the money needed to get the house back. Soon, the family receives another letter saying that Juice has missed so many days of school that they will be fined one thousand dollars. This is when the tax secret is revealed, and Ma helps to solve the problem.
This book is beautifully written from the first to the last word. The author makes such ordinary and simple events very absorbing by giving Juice a voice. The dialect that she uses when narrating the story enables readers to hear her talking about events that happen and how she feels about them. In addition, this story is unique because instead of one large victory at the ending, there are many small triumphs throughout the book. Unlike most books, which have a single peak (i.e., climax) in the story, this book has several smaller ¡§hills¡¨ instead. For example, when Juice auditions for the best role in a class play, she is unsure of how she will do. It turns out that she gets the part. This book is worth reading because it is unique compared to others.
I feel that this is an excellent book overall. My favorite part, though, is when Ma is having another baby.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By aliceknd on April 13, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book is written at a 3rd grade level, and the narrator is 9-years-old, so I'm assuming that is the audience. However, the themes in the book are much too mature for 8 and 9-year-old children.

This story about an extremely poor "backwoods" family struggling to survive is touching, and in some ways inspiring for it's family loyalty and warmth. I enjoyed it for the most part, but was rather shocked when near the end of the book the 9-year-old narrator describes being required to unexpectedly deliver her mother's baby in an emergency situation. I admire the girl's courage, but not her description of seeing her mother's "private parts." I wouldn't want my 9-year-old daughter reading that. I think she would be traumatized. (She knows some basics, but we haven't had the full-fledged "talk" yet... that's coming this summer.) Call me old-fashioned. I am.

Poor grammar pervades this novel since the narrator and other characters are poorly educated. This can be confusing to a 3rd grader who would not understand that this is not "acceptable" or "normal." Overall, the book is simply too mature for it's intended audience. The subject matter would be more appropriate for junior high school, but the reading level is too low, and the main character would not be interesting to young teens. Unfortunately, that leaves this book in no-man's-land, which is unfortunate because it is a nice story.

Age recommendation: 9 and up ONLY if read aloud to the child by a parent and discussed thoroughly.
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