Sunday, February 5, 2012

Review: Just Juice by Karen Hesse

Juice is nine, the middle child in a family with five girls. Times are tough. Pa is out of work. Ma is pregnant. And Juice struggles to hide the fact that she can’t read. When Pa receives a letter announcing their home has been sold for back taxes Juice devises a plan to pay the taxes and keep their home.

This is a story about learning to read. Neither Pa nor Juice can read and it affects the entire family. Juice tries to hide her inability by keeping away from school and “pretend” reading to her younger siblings. Juice is a smart girl, resourceful, proactive and hardworking; yet, this one thing, her struggle with reading, dominates her life.

Little cues tell the reader that Juice is dyslexic which may need to be pointed out and discussed with young readers. When Juice’s sisters make flashcards with letters made of string Juice is able to touch the letters, to feel them, and a breakthrough is made.

This is a story about poverty. Pa and Juice work hard in their shop but sometimes there isn’t any work to be done. A social worker comes to the house to check on Ma and the baby and to bring food.

There is a lot going on in this story. Mini-spoiler alert: Juice even delivers a baby. Juice is lovable and her iron will to succeed kept my interest. But I could have done with more comic relief, fewer issues (for such a short book), and a more complicated ending than the one we’re given.

Published: Scholastic, 1998     Pages: 138
Rating: 3 Stars     Source: purchased copy

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