When Life Gives You Lemons, Search for Bigfoot

Cindy: As we reported a few years ago in this Bookends post, our county could be hiding Bigfoot, and Michigan is a top site for hunting. So naturally, we were drawn to Melissa Savage’s debut novel, Lemons (2017), which features a pair of tween Bigfoot detectives!

The first thing almost-11-year-old Lemonade Liberty Witt sees when her social worker drives her through Willow Creek, California, is a “weirdo kid darting through the trees with binoculars hanging from his neck.” Well, actually, that was the second thing. The first was a huge Bigfoot wooden statue in the middle of the town square. Lem knows for sure she’s not in San Francisco anymore, and that realization adds to her grief.

After her mother’s death, Lem is placed in foster care with an older man who turns out to be her gruff grandfather. He prefers to be called Charlie and runs the local Bigfoot souvenir shop. Tobin, the weirdo kid, is the sole proprietor of Bigfoot Detectives, Inc. He gives Lem his business card—a crumpled piece of paper—and after she reads it, he says, “. . . ah, actually. . . I’m going to need that back when you’re done with it. . . It’s my only one.” Lem thinks they’re both nuts. But Lem, Charlie, and Tobin are the kinds of characters readers would follow anywhere, even into some pretty implausible plot twists.

Each of the characters is dealing with personal problems—lemons, if you will—as well as hiding secrets. Young Lem’s grief is palpable, but she is able to manage her struggles when she forges friendships and family connections. Savage writes fabulous, realistic dialogue that’s full of snarky humor when it’s not deadly serious. Train your binoculars on this story when you are looking for recommendations for your tween readers. It will appeal to boys and girls alike, and would make a great classroom read-aloud.

Lynn: I really enjoyed this charming story, too. The characters went right to my heart, and I loved their relationships. There is so much kids will appreciate in this story—including the Twinkies! I am very much hoping that we will have more from Lem and Charlie and Bigfoot Detectives, Inc.

Speaking of Bigfoot, what better book to pair with Lemons than Bigfoot (2017) by Erin Peabody? This is one of the entries in a new series called Behind the Legend. I have always found most kids’ books about cryptids to be pretty cheesy, so I am happy to report that despite its funny cartoon covers, this series actually brings science and logical reasoning to its subjects.

Bigfoot begins with a quick look at some of the legends about various giants, then reports on the history of Bigfoot stories, beginning with the first Bigfoot sighting in 1958 by a highway worker. Peabody presents famous photographs, footprints, and other evidence—as well as a hoax or two. Finally, she discusses the pros and cons of believing the legend, carefully weighing the evidence on both sides, and comes to a reasoned conclusion.

Peabody’s breezy, accessible tone and Victor Rivas’ goofy cartoons are sure to keep kids turning the pages, and the easy-to-follow analysis of facts and arguments gives them an excellent model for them to emulate in their own work. Even though Peabody concludes that Bigfoot likely does not exist, she encourages kids to keep looking. The second book in the Behind the Legend seriesThe Loch Ness Monster, is available now, with more on the way very soon.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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