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The Lemonade Club

The Lemonade Club

4.5 7
by Patricia Polacco
Everyone loves Miss Wichelman?s fifth-grade class?especially best friends Traci and Marilyn. That?s where they learn that when life hands you lemons, make lemonade! They are having a great year until Traci begins to notice some changes in Marilyn. She?s losing weight, and seems tired all the time. She has leukemia?and a tough road of chemotherapy ahead. It is not only


Everyone loves Miss Wichelman?s fifth-grade class?especially best friends Traci and Marilyn. That?s where they learn that when life hands you lemons, make lemonade! They are having a great year until Traci begins to notice some changes in Marilyn. She?s losing weight, and seems tired all the time. She has leukemia?and a tough road of chemotherapy ahead. It is not only Traci and Miss Wichelman who stand up for her, but in a surprising and unexpected turn, the whole fifth-grade class, who figures out a way to say we?re with you.

In true Polacco fashion, this book turns lemons into lemonade and celebrates amazing life itself.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

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.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Ken and Sylvia Marantz
Best friends Traci and Marilyn love their fifth-grade teacher, Miss Wichelman. All of the students in her class do. She encourages them to follow their dreams and reminds them, with a basket of lemons, that if life gives you lemons you should make lemonade. When Marilyn is diagnosed with leukemia, Traci and Miss Wichelman try to help her through the difficult chemotherapy. On Marilyn's return to school, all the children have shaved their heads to make her feel better about losing her hair. When Miss Wichelman reveals that she too is fighting cancer, Traci and Marilyn support her through her wedding and her goal of becoming a physician. The double-page scenes include some contexts, but the characters dominate. Polacco uses her pencils and markers to activate emotions, from the pointing arms of teasing girls to the exuberant greetings of welcoming classmates and the happy racing chase of the two friends across the endpapers. The lengthy story, based on the real experiences of Polacco's daughter, is both informative and reassuring to young readers who may have some experience with cancer. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Kirkus Reviews
Very best friends Traci and Marilyn are in Miss Wichelman's warm, friendly and inspiring fifth-grade classroom led by an encouraging teacher whose daily motto is to make lemonade out of life's sour lemons. Marilyn is given one of life's worst lemons, leukemia, and enters a course of chemotherapy complete with its sickening side effects and the loss of her hair. Through it all, Traci and her family remain supportive as only best friends can. But it is Miss Wichelman's personal connection with cancer, her special friendship with both girls in and outside of school and her secret dreams of finishing medical school that lead the way to a classroom full of shaved heads and happy reunions when Marilyn returns from a long absence. Once again, Polacco works from a true episode, this time in her daughter's friend's life, to build a heartwarming and touchingly gentle story of serious childhood illness and its hopeful, positive outcome through compassionate peer loyalty. Her signature expressive illustrations of children and adults' sadness, relief and gladness rendered in pencils and markers complete this sentimental yet poignant story that will surely trigger a few tears for some and empathetic understanding for all. (Picture book. 7-12)

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.90(w) x 11.13(h) x 0.50(d)
AD740L (what's this?)
Age Range:
6 - 9 Years

Meet the Author

"I was born in Lansing, Michigan in 1944. Soon after my birth I lived in Williamston, Michigan and then moved onto my grandparents farm in Union City, Michigan.

"I lived on the farm with my mom and Grandparents until 1949. That is when my Babushka (my grandmother) died and we prepared to move away from Michigan. I must say that living on that little farm with them was the most magical time of my life...and that my Babushka and other grandparents were some of the most inspirational people in my life.

"My parents were divorced when I was 3, and both my father and mother moved back into the homes of their parents. I spent the school year with my mother, and the summers with my dad. In both households I was the apple of my grandparents' eyes! I would say that these relationships with my grandparents have most definitely influenced my life and my work. You probably have noticed that in almost every book that I write there is a very young person who is interacting with an elderly person. Personally, I feel that this is the most valuable experience of my life....having the wonder of knowing both children and elderly people.

"The respect that I learned as a very young person certainly carried over into my life in later years. I have always like hearing stories from these folks. My genuine curiosity for the wonder of living a very long life prepared me to accept the declining years of my own parents.

"To get back to the farm in Union City...this place was so magical to me that I have never forgotten it! This was the place where I heard such wonderful stories told...this was the place that a real meteor fell into our font yard...that very meteorite is now our family headstone in the graveyard here in Union City.

"Did I tell you that I now live in Union City? This is after living in Oakland, California for almost 37 years. But, you see, every year I'd come back to Michigan to see my Dad and family.


"In 1949 we left the farm to move, first to Coral Gables, Florida. I lived there with my Mom and my brother, Richard, for almost 3 years. Then we moved to Oakland, California. I remained there for most of my young life on into my adulthood. We lived on Ocean View Drive in the Rockridge District. What I loved the most about this neighborhood is that all of my neighbors came in as many colors, ideas and religions as there are people on the planet. How lucky I was to know so many people that were so different and yet so much alike.

"It is on Ocean View that I met my best friend, Stewart Grinnell Washington. We are best friends to this day! He has a younger brother, Winston and three sisters; Jackie, Terry and Robin. When I was a student in elementary school I wasn't a very good student. I had a terrible time with reading and math. As a matter of fact, I did not learn how to read until I was almost 14 years old. Can you imagine what it was like to see all my friends do so well in school and I wasn't! I thought I was dumb. I didn't like school because there was this boy that always teased me and made me feel even dumber. When I was fourteen, it was learned that I have a learning disability. It is called dyslexia. I felt trapped in a body that wouldn't do what everybody else could do. That was when one of my hero's, my teacher, found what was wrong with me and got me the help I needed to succeed in school. Of course, now that I am an adult, I realize that being learning disabled does not mean DUMB AT ALL! As a matter of fact, I have learned that being learning disabled only means that I cannot learn the way most of you do. As a matter of fact, most learning disabled children are actually GENIUSES! Once I learned how to read and caught up with the rest of my fellow students, I did very well.

"I went on to University, majored in Fine Art, then went on to do a graduate degree and even ended up with a Ph.D. in Art History. For a time I restored ancient pieces of art for museums. I eventually became the mother of two children, Steven and Traci, and devoted much of my days to their education and upbringing.

"I did not start writing children's books until I was 41 years old. Mind you the "art" has always been there for me most of my life. Apparently one of the symptoms of my disability in academics is the ability of draw very, very well. So drawing, painting and sculpture has always been a part of my life even before I started illustrating my books. The books were quite a surprise, really. Mind you, I came from a family of incredible storytellers. My mother's people were from the Ukraine and Russia...my father's people were from Ireland. My extended family,(Stewart's family) were from the bayous of Louisiana...also great story tellers. When you are raised on HEARING stories.....NOT SEEING THEM, you become very good at telling stories yourself. So at the age of 41 I started putting stories that I told down on paper and did drawings to help illustrate them...I guess the rest is history.

"I have enjoyed a wonderful career of writing books for children . Who could have guessed that little girl that was having such a tough time in school would end up an illustrator and author. Children and adults alike ask me where I get my ideas...I get them from the same place that you do....MY IMAGINATION... I would guess the reason my imagination is so fertile is because I came from storytelling and, WE DID NOT OWN A T.V.!!!!!!!!! You see, when one is a writer, actor, dancer, musician; a creator of any kind, he or she does these things because they listen to that "voice" inside of them. All of us have that "voice". It is where all inspired thoughts come from....but when you have electronic screens in front, of you, speaking that voice for you... it DROWNS OUT THE VOICE! When I talk to children and aspiring writers, I always ask them to listen to the voice, turn off the T.V. and


"Now that I have moved back to Union City I am intending to open my house and community and invite people to come there to take part in writing seminars, story telling festivals, literature conferences and various events that celebrate children's literature."

Born Patricia Ann Barber in Lansing, Michigan, to parents of Russian and Ukrainian descent on one side and Irish on the other, Patricia Polacco grew up in both California and Michigan. Her school year was spent in Oakland, California, and summers in her beloved Michigan. She describes her family members as marvelous storytellers. "My fondest memories are of sitting around a stove or open fire, eating apples and popping corn while listening to the old ones tell glorious stories about their homeland and the past. We are tenacious traditionalists and sentimentalists.... With each retelling our stories gain a little more Umph!"

Studying in the United States and Australia, Patricia Polacco has earned an M.F.A. and a Ph. D. in art history, specializing in Russian and Greek painting, and iconographic history. She is a museum consultant on the restoration of icons. As a participant in many citizen exchange programs for writers and illustrators, Patricia Polacco has traveled extensively in Russia as well as other former Soviet republics. She continues to support programs that encourage Russo-American friendships and understanding. She is also deeply involved in inner-city projects here in the U.S. that promote the peaceful resolution of conflict and encourage art and literacy programs.

The mother of a grown son and a daughter, Patricia Polacco currently resides in Michigan, where she has a glorious old farm that was built during the time of Lincoln.

copyright © 2000 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.

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The Lemonade Club 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Patricia Polacco does an excellent job at writing stories. Throughout my semester I have been able to read 3 of her books. Each of her books that I have read thus far teach morals and valuable life lessons. What I really like about her books is that each of them are taken from an experience she/her family has personally had.I highly recommend this author as well as this book.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book as is all Patricia Polacco books. Discusses cancer with a happy ending Polacco's books usually has a family tie. I have 35 of her books that I use to teach with.
Clau_Dia More than 1 year ago
love it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tish_S More than 1 year ago
I recently picked up this picture book and fell in love with it. Best friends Traci and Marilyn love being in Miss Wichelman's fifth grade class. Miss Wichelman always encourages her students to turn lemons into lemonade. But when Marilyn states losing weight and feeling tired all the time, things change. Marilyn has leukemia. Traci and the whole fifth grade class rally around their friend, even shaving their heads to show support. When the girls discover that Miss Wichelman is also fighting cancer, they start the Lemonade Club to encourage one another. Based on a true story of Polacco's daughter Trace, her best friend, Marilyn, and their teacher Cynthia Wichelman, this story is heartwarming and encouraging.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
svsustudent08 More than 1 year ago
Miss Wichelman is a young teacher who daily preaches to her children, that is life hands you lemons, you must make lemonade. Her close knit class is put to the limits when one of the Students Marilyn is diagnosed with leukemia. The class shows their support for Marilyn by having everyone shave their heads. Miss Wichelman is incredibly supportive, mainly because she too secretly has cancer. Marilyn, Miss Wichelman, and the rest of the class take a journey through the process and survival of cancer. The topic of cancer is delicatley portrayed.