Tuesday 14 March 2023

The Leftover Lemon Dilemma

The Leftover Lemon Dilemma by Dannielle Viera & Paula Deuber (Loose Parts Press) PB HB RRP $28.00 ISBN 9780645532548

Reviewed by Karen Hendriks

At Mandy’s house there’s an abundance of lemons on their lemon tree. Mandy knows that there’s only so many things you can make and bake with lemons so what can she do with the leftover lemons? With help from her neighbours, Mandy discovers a unique way to turn lemons into something sweet.

This is Dannielle Viera’s debut picture book, and it works a treat. Her story is a clever multicultural celebration of food and community. She has crafted a story that shows children they too can be creators and innovators. Her characters and words are full of warmth and childlike wonder. As the reader follows along with Mandy, they are encouraged to think about what to do with all the lemons. ‘What are we going to do with all these lemons?’ asked Mandy. ‘If we don’t use them, they’ll go to waste.’

The story arc is logical and engaging as Mandy attempts to solve the lemon dilemma. The language used suits the readership and plays on the lemon theme. As Mandy munched on a bun, a juicy idea zinged into her head. Taste palettes and the flavours of food are explored. Mrs Chan cheered. ‘Now I can cook lemon chicken for my family,’ she said. Even the quiet street is called Green Place. Paper bags are used instead of plastic ones. Without giving away too much of the story, other foods and cultures are introduced. The ending is satisfying and it’s a nice to know that the message of food wastage is gently brought to attention in this story.

Paula Deuber is an artist and illustrator who focuses on nature, sustainability, and food. Her illustrations are mostly worked in watercolours and ink. Her love of nature shines in her illustrations in The Leftover Lemon Dilemma, with green and yellow strongly featuring. Deuber mixes double-page spreads with single page spreads and vignettes. This allows the visuals to share much information about the neighbourhood and the people who live there. Her images are a celebration of family life in the suburbs of Australia. She beautifully captures the bond between Mandy and her mother. I love the spreads that show Mandy gently leading her mother whose eyes are closed. Life is always sweeter with family, friends and food and Deuber’s delightful watercolours celebrate this beautifully. 

The Leftover Lemon Dilemma is a gorgeous picture book for children 4-8 years that will appeal to both children, families, communities, and schools. Children who love nature and the environment will particularly enjoy this book.

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