I rarely like picture books that use fiction as a transparent means of teaching something to kids. This so, so often results in a book that's either boring or didactic, or both. And my problem with such books is that people buy them, thinking "oh, it will be good to teach this to my kid", but the result is to make the child think that books are boring and/or manipulative.
So, when I saw that the book Lemonade in Winter has a subtitle "A Book About Two Kids Counting Money", I almost didn't even read it. But I've liked Emily Jenkins' other books, so I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. And I'm glad that I did. Because Lemonade in Winter is that rare book that tells a kid-friendly story, while also illustrating a particular concept (in this case, counting money).
Pauline decides, one cold winter day, that it would be fun to have a lemonade stand. Actually, a lemonade, limeade, and lemon-limeade stand,. Her little brother John-John immediately begs to help. Despite the objections of their parents ("it's freezing... Nobody will want cold drinks"), the two embark on their project. They round up some money (searching under the sofa cushions), buy their supplies, make the product, and create the lemonade stand. When business doesn't go as well as expected, they undergo a variety of stunts to get people to buy their product. At the end of the day, they sit down to figure out whether they've turned a profit of not.
So you see, the counting part is definitely in here. They have to add up the coins that they find, figure out what supplies they can buy for that amount, decide what to charge for each sale, and calculate the profit and loss at the end of the day. But this is all so well integrated into the story that it just augments the story, rather than seeming like the point of the book. Like putting a recipe for apple pie at the end of a book about making an apple pie. Lemonade in Winter reads like, "if you're going to write a book about a lemonade stand, you might as well explain how the financials go". Rather than "if you're going to write a book about counting and money, you might as well use selling lemonade as an analogy." Make sense?
The thing that is wonderful about Lemonade in Winter is Pauline and John-John's relentless enthusiasm for their project. When there is no one around on the cold street, Pauline suggests "Maybe we should advertise". Without missing a beat, the two launch into a cheer:
"Lemon lemon LIME, lemon LIMEADE!
Lemon lemon LIME, lemon LIMEADE!
All that it will ya? Fifty cents a cup!
All that it will cost ya? Fifty cents a cup!"
When that's not sufficient, they add entertainment (cartwheels and drums), have a sale, and make decorations. Their neighbors, like the reader, are simply unable to resist their efforts.
Karas' illustrations (brush and ink, colored via Photoshop and then finished with pencil) celebrate Pauline and John-John's irrepressible energy. Every time they sing, he shows them with heads tilted up, and smiling mouths wide open. I find this aspect of the pictures reminiscent of the Charlie Brown specials (though Karas' illustrations are otherwise quite a bit more detailed). After Pauline and John-John add decorations, the lemonade stand is irresistible, lit up with flashlights as floodlights, bedecked with balloons and cocktail umbrellas, and with a teddy bear holding a sign.
The bottom line is that Lemonade in Winter works as a story about two siblings executing a crazy idea. It also works as a vehicle for preschoolers to painlessly learn a bit about counting and money, and profit and loss. Emily Jenkins succeeds again. Lemonade in Winter is a nominee for the 2012 Cybils in Fiction Picture Books. Recommended, and a must-purchase title for libraries.
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: September 11, 2012
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).