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Just Juice

by Karen Hesse
Illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker

Published by Scholastic Press, 1998
138 pages
ISBN: 0-590-03382-4

Ages 8 -11

I don't care much for school, and school, well it cares even less for me." That's how nine-year-old Juice feels about having been left behind the rest of her class. The truth is, Juice can't read. She is quick and talented with her hands but letters and numbers don't make much sense to her. It's a secret she's bent on keeping, especially from her little sister Lulu, who looks up to Juice in every way. So Juice stays home from school more often than not, and in doing so she can also spend time with Pa. He's been out of work for too long and Juice likes keeping him company so he doesn't get lonesome. Things are a struggle for Juice and her loving, close-knit rural family. Money is tight, Ma is expecting another baby, and they are at risk of losing their home because of unpaid taxes. But when Juice reluctantly returns to third grade after a visit from the truant officer, she begins to get special help from her new teacher, and slowly, with much hard work, the world of letters and words begins to unfold. Karen Hesse makes a strong statement about the importance of literacy in the context of this quiet, compelling novel about a young girl who is not only learning to read but also learning that she cannot solve all of her family's problems. Juice and her economically struggling family are portrayed with great dignity and grace. CCBC categories: Fiction for Children.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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