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Lemons Hardcover – May 2, 2017
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"An enjoyable and welcome exploration of sorrow, healing, and friendship." —School Library Journal
"An enjoyable and comforting middle-grade handbook on navigating new experiences and the heartache of losing loved ones early in life." —Kirkus Reviews
"Savage injects enough humor, mystery, and lively interaction among the characters to give this two-hanky debut a buoyant tone." —Booklist
"[A]pt and accessible for young readers." —The Bulletin
About the Author
Melissa D. Savage is a writer and a child and family therapist. Her desire to write purposeful, issue-driven books for young people, coupled with her interest in cryptozoology and the mystery of Bigfoot, inspired her to write Lemons. Melissa lives in Minneapolis. You can follow her on Twitter at @melissadsavage, and visit her at melissadsavage.com.
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Top customer reviews
While plot summaries aren't usually helpful or even welcome there is some benefit in sketching out the main players in this book, since the entire book is one group character/family/friendship study. We start with Lem. She has just finished watching her mother die a slow, agonizing death from untreatable cancer. Her father disappeared even before she was born and plays no part in the story. Since Lem is now essentially an orphan she is sent to live with her maternal grandfather, Charlie. Lem's mom and he were completely estranged, so Lem is headed into completely unknown territory, and just for an extra spin on the sadness wheel, she has been uprooted from friends and everything she knows in San Francisco and finds herself in a tiny farming burg in Northern California. So, Lem is grieving her mother's death. Grandfather Charlie is grieving the fact that he will never be able to reconcile with his now deceased daughter. Their estrangement arose as a consequence of the death of Charlie's wife, (Lem's grandmother), so the general outlook at the outset of the book is grim.
Within a few pages Lem meets and befriends Tobin, an odd, slightly OCD, boy who is funny, serious, quirky, precise and charming. Tobin's father is MIA in Vietnam. So, Tobin and his mother, (who is also an important character), are dealing with a missing, presumed dead, father/husband. Rounding things out is Mrs. Dickerson, a retired teacher who is sort of a benevolent Yoda figure to the kids, but who is also grieving the death of her husband.
Now, this could have been a tone deaf, awkward, or unrelentingly teachable moment sort of pop-psych bit of kitchen sink drama. It isn't. First off, the slightly twee frame here is that the town is the center of Bigfoot sighting activity. Tobin is obsessed with seeing and recording a Bigfoot creature and he ropes Lem into being his assistant. Tobin's search for Bigfoot may be a metaphor for his emotional search for his missing dad, but that is never dwelt on. Rather, the whole Bigfoot angle gives this just enough of a fabulous and magical-realism touch that you understand that the story is more of a fable than a stab at a realistic drama.
I kept waiting for the story and all of the characters to sink. They don't. They get close, but everyone, in one way or another, is delivered to firmer ground. It can be wrenching, but the book is founded on a certain kindness and gentleness and toughness that makes it clear that while the dead are honored and remembered, life goes on, and family and friends who remain have to stick together.
I know this review is a bit long, but the blurbs and the book's cover make this story look like a funsy- Bigfooty adventure lark, and it seems fair to observe that it's a lot more than that. Lem's mother's death is not simply an event that starts some sort of summer adventure rolling forward. That death is the heart of the entire story. The book is ambitious and rewarding, (and often very dry and funny), even if it does cheat a bit in bringing everyone home safe and sound. It's aimed at middle graders. It addresses big issues. It invites thought and invites kids to relate to and reflect on these amiable and decent people. It's entertaining and worthy. How's that for a nice find?
(Please note that I received a free advance ecopy of this book without a review requirement, or any influence regarding review content should I choose to post a review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.)
Lemonade Liberty Witt's - "Lem" - mother has died and Liberty has moved from San Francisco to the small town of Willow Creek, the Bigfoot Capital of the World, to live with her grandfather. Estranged from his daughter - Lem's mother, Charlie runs the local general store where multiple types of jerky share shelf space with Bigfoot souvenirs. Lem meets Tobin Sky, Willow Creek's "Bigfoot detective" and head investigator for Bigfoot Detectives, Inc. In addition to being uprooted, she must deal with adjusting to small town living, grieving the death of her mother, and learning to understand and accept others. Further, Lem finds herself becoming involved with the search for Bigfoot, Tobin's issues, and the discovery of her mother's past. In doing so, Liberty and the other characters begin to understand and accept one another and to move forward with their own lives.
Allowing Lem to tell her own story makes "Lemons" more meaningful and personal. The death of a parent, particularly a single mother, is difficult to deal with regardless of the child's age. Lem's emotions and the manner in which she copes with her personal heartbreak are realistic, but never depressing for the reader. Tobin's personality is quirky; Lem's ability to accept and to help him deal with his own issues are instructive for young readers. They show that one may be able to make a difference in helping others cope with bullying and in dealing with their own grief. Lem's willingness to support Tobin and to follow his lead help him to become more confident.
Short chapters and vocabulary that is not too challenging make "Lemons" an easy book to read. The situations in which Lem and Tobin find themselves and the humorous aspects of the story will keep young readers engaged; the characters and their issues are relatable. Adults will find they enjoy this book, too.
The book is set in 1975, which is important for two plot points: Tobin's father has not returned from the Vietnam War. Although he was missing in action, he was eventually found, but still has not returned home. Spotting Bigfoot was a craze at it's peak in the 1970s and Savage's characters reflect the obsession many people had with this legend
Savage's novel is sweet with a little heartbreak and hope thrown in. Tween readers will enjoy this novel and the adventures that Lem and Tobin have as they hunt Bigfoot and look for happiness.