About the Holiday
One of the best parts of summer is all the fresh fruit and veggies that are available in your own garden, at farmers markets, and at grocery stores. Vibrant red strawberries, raspberries, watermelon, and tomatoes; deep green lettuce and kale; and a rainbow of squash, peppers, and potatoes make cooking and eating a special treat. There’s no better way to celebrate the season than by making favorite recipes—and trying some new ones—with your favorite fruits and vegetables.
I received a copy of When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree from Sterling Children’s Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Sterling in a giveaway of the book. See details below.
When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree
Written by Jamie L. B. Deenihan | Illustrated by Lorraine Rocha
Your birthday present wish list isn’t that long, but it is tech-y, full of dreams for a phone, a computer, headphones, and even a drone. But what does Grandma bring? “Surprise! It’s a…lemon tree.” Fortunately, you know your manners, so you look happy—even excited—on the outside while inside you feel more frown-y and maybe a bit cry-y as you thank her sweetly. What you don’t do is “drop it off a bridge. Tie it to your birthday balloons. Play ding dong ditch the lemon tree.”
Instead, the next day you find a sunny spot for your tree, water it just enough, and protect it from danger. When winter comes, you bring it inside and keep it warm. When you see that it’s growing, you repot it. You wait and wait some more. “Once the snow melts, it’s time to bring your lemon tree back outside,” and pretty soon, you find yourself “picking lemons! Woo-Hoo!”
All those lemons are great for slicing and squeezing. But that’s a lot of lemon juice. What to do? “Gather these items: 1. Lemon juice. 2. Water. 3. A pinch (or handful) of sugar. 4. Flashy lemonade stand. Cue dazzling smile and…” you’ll have plenty of money to “finally buy exactly what you want.” You know what that is, right? Something off that wish list, or… “something you can really enjoy.” Something like that wagon full of plants and flowers you’ve bought to make a garden that “you can share with others too”—especially Grandma!
Directly addressing the reader, Jamie L. B. Deenihan introduces the unthinkable gift and the inexpressible emotions it elicits with droll wit that kids will respond to with knowing giggles. But today’s crop of readers is a complex bunch, and they’ll also appreciate the value of a living, growing, giving present that they can care for and share. As the little girl tends to her lemon tree through the seasons—reading to it, transplanting it to roomier quarters, measuring it, and even naming it—Deenihan lends a layer of depth that readers will recognize from their own experiences of growing up.
At last, the lemons are ready to be picked and made into lemonade and the girl reaps the fruits of her labor in her popular lemonade stand. But these are more profound than perhaps expected as, instead of spending her cash on items from her electronics-heavy wish list, she buys a garden-load of new plants with which she transforms her neighborhood. How do the other kids react? They seem happy enough to leave their robots on the sidewalk and put away their phones to enjoy a day in nature.
Between the front endpapers—where the neighborhood streets are empty of people, a vacant lot between apartment buildings collects trash, and a kite lies forgotten on a rooftop—and the back endpapers—where the sidewalks are full of kids, flower pots dot stoops, the vacant lot is a thriving park, and the kite soars above the buildings—an unforeseen and surprising transformation takes place. Lorraine Rocha captures the girl’s internal conflict about her gift with humorous snapshots of what she shouldn’t do with the tree and then juxtaposes them with others that show her becoming more and more invested in her little, leafy charge.
When the lemons are picked, they spill out of the bowl and dot the counter, a sunny accents to the girl’s soft-blue kitchen. The long line at her lemonade stand attests to their delicious allure. Rocha cleverly mirrors the ubiquity and sterility of electronics in her illustration of the gray Mega Store, where the only colorful element is the display of plants on sale. The final two-page spread of the lush and vibrant garden is joyously inclusive, and kids will love peering into the windows to see how the neighborhood has been brought together.
A book to spark a love of gardening, discussions on community, and a second look at all of those tech toys, When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree is highly recommended for home, classroom, and public libraries.
Ages 3 and up
Sterling Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-145492381
Discover more about Jamie L. B. Deenihan and her books on her website.
To learn more about Lorraine Rocha, her books, and her art, visit her website.
National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month Activity
Lovely Lemon Centerpiece
Brighten up your table with this cute birdy centerpiece! Kids will have fun making their own birds and nest with a couple of lemons and a few easy-to-find supplies.
- Lemons (one for each bird)
- Googly eyes
- Yellow tissue paper
- Yellow felt, fleece, or paper
- Brown paper sandwich bag
- Parchment paper or other light paper
- Strong glue
To Make the Bird
- Insert the toothpick into the lemon to make the beak
- Glue on the eyes
- Cut a length of tissue paper about 2 inches by 4 inches
- Fold the paper in narrow widths accordion style
- Pinch one end together and fan out the paper to make the tail
- Flatten the pinched end and glue it to the lower back of the lemon
- Crumple a bit of tissue paper and glue to the top of the lemon
- Cut small wings from the felt, fleece, or paper
- Glue the wings to the sides of the lemon
To Make the Nest
- Cut the bag open along one side and along the bottom
- Roll up the bag and form it into a circle, taping the ends together. (To make a larger nest tape two bags together)
- To make the nesting material, cut narrow strips from the parchment or light paper
- Fill the ring with the nesting material
Set the bird or birds in the nest
You can find When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree at these booksellers
Picture Book Review