cover image The Lemonade Club

The Lemonade Club

Patricia Polacco, . . Philomel, $16.99 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-399-24540-4

Miss Wichelman, an energetic fifth-grade teacher, assures her students they can be anything they want to be (“If you dream it... then you can BE it!”). She keeps a basket of lemons in her classroom, repeatedly asking, “And if life hands you a lemon.... Just add water and sugar and what do you have?” Her students know to respond, “Lemonade!” But this philosophy is tested when Marilyn is diagnosed with leukemia; looking at the lemons, her best friend Traci thinks, “No matter how much sugar was added, there wasn’t going to be lemonade this time.” After enduring grueling chemotherapy that leaves her bald, Marilyn returns to school to find that her classmates have all shaved their heads in support. Miss Wichelman is also bald, but (she eventually reveals to Traci and Marilyn at a meeting of the trio’s Lemonade Club) it is because she is being treated for breast cancer. When the teacher confides that her illness has dampened her enthusiasm for applying to medical school, Marilyn bellows, “You aren’t going to let something like cancer stomp on your dreams, are you?” In an uplifting finale, the teacher gets married, attended by Traci and Marilyn in lemon-colored dresses, and goes on to become a doctor. As is often the case with Polacco’s stories, this lump-in-the-throat, inspiring tale comes straight from real life; Traci is her daughter. The artist’s characteristic illustration style works particularly well here to evoke a wide emotional range while maintaining an essentially sunny mood. Ages 6-up. (Sept .)