cover image The Red Lemon

The Red Lemon

Rebecca Kai Dotlich, . . Random/Golden, $14.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-375-83593-3

A perfectly rotund farmer sings the praises of his latest lemon crop: "There's nothing like lemons./ This fruit isn't mellow./ They're tangy!/ They're tasty!/ They're tart—/ and soooooo/ yellow!" In these pages, Saake's (Hello, Robots ) retro-style graphics exude giddy happiness: Farmer McPhee bounces about his orchard in a state of exhilaration. In his comically manic reveries, he imagines all the delicious things his lemons will be used to make. ("Lemons for sherbet and lemons for pie!/ Lemons for drinks on the Fourth of July!") Children should get a kick out of seeing how Saake manipulates simple shapes into cool, cartoon-like images. But the story takes a darker turn when McPhee spies something shocking in one of his trees: a single red lemon. "I can't have red lemons/ where yellow fruit grows!" fumes McPhee, as Staake covers the scene with a wash of smoldering red. He hurls the red fruit into the ocean, where it lands on a deserted island, germinates and, after a few centuries (the passage of time is symbolized by a vaguely disturbing, post-apocalyptic-looking view of the orchard), the produce from the red lemon orchard becomes a sought-after gastronomic treat. One man's lemon is another's lemonade? The moral may pass over youngsters' heads, but the pictures will keep them enthralled. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)