I have just posted a request to publishers Faber and Faber to ask if they would re-issue Virginia Euwer Wolff’s two brilliant books about 14 year old LaVaughn and Jolly, the struggling single mum she babysits for.
The books are written in free verse form but don’t let that put you off – they are really easy to read. Here’s a little bit from Make Lemonade
Here’s how it was at Jolly’s house:
the plates are pasted together with noodles
and these rooms smell like last week’s garbage
and there isn’t a place where I can put my book to study for school
except places where something else already is
LaVaughn has plans to escape her violent, poor neighbourhood by going to college and getting a good job. But before that there’s a lot to discover – about friendship, about belief, about sexuality and about how to make sense of the world.
Here’s a bit from True Believer about the after-school grammar class that LaVaughn’s teacher advises her to go to.
This is the very scary Dr Rose, on the first day of the new class:
This is an after-school tutorial,
But do not be mislead by that.
Do not even begin to think you’ll drop in
When you fell like dropping in.
Do not even begin to think you will do the lessons
When the mood strikes you.
Do not even begin to think you will
Dillydally about your work here.
Now: why are you here, young man?
She has pointed her eyes toward a slumped boy.
“I want to be a senator”, he says, barely hearable.
Her eyes go around watching our reactions
which there aren’t any
among us motionless bodies.
I don’t want her eyes pointing into me like that.
“And you, young woman?” Her eyes go to the girl behind me.
“I’m here so I can talk good for TV, which I want to go into.”
“And you young man?” She means the boy in front of me.
“I want to rise above myself” he says.
By this time nobody in this room would laugh,
this teacher has us all on some kind of strings
attached to the waves of her voice.
Her eyes come to me.
My voice comes out puny. “I was sent here
by last year’s teacher
to get improved.”
Dr Rose breathes in very deep, her jacket swells just an iota,
and she says, “We have a multitude
of obstacles to overcome here.
Dr Rose turns out to be totally inspiring and completely committed to helping her students achieve their aims.
Make Lemonade and True Believer are un-put-downable reads and I’ll be amazed if you don’t feel more hopeful about a world with people like these in it!
So I’m waiting to hear back from Faber and Faber and in the meantime I’ve brought Make Lemonade and True Believer out of the store and even though their pages are a bit yellow with them being over ten years old, they’ll be out on the shelves in the Young People’s area waiting for someone to pick them up and get to know Jolly, Jeremy, Jilly, Jody, Patrick, LaVaughn’s wise Mom, LaVaughn herself and all the friends and teachers who believe in her.
Rosemary Lynch – Young People’s Services Manager