THE LEMONADE MURDER by Thoger Birkeland


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This offbeat family story from Denmark makes no concessions to adult expectations, but young readers will recognize an authentic contemporary in Jan, the narrator, who begins by telling us about his strong mother: ""During spring cleaning she is the one who lifts the piano while Dad shoves the rug in place."" Mother is also given to swatting her husband affectionately on the bottom and calling him ""Persnickety"" when be is stooping over to collect specks from the carpet, and wrestling with him on the lawn until she discovers her children selling tickets for the show. But the story's real star (and enigma) is Jan's older sister Mighty Anne, who beats up the neighborhood boys, scolds her mother for getting pregnant when there aren't enough dresser drawers as it is, and tells scary stories in the dark bedroom to toughen up her sister and brother. We begin to feel uneasy about Anne when she snitches some arsenic and, to test its poison, kills her aunt's ailing, neurotic canary with a drop. Thus Jan is apprehensive, and the reader is too, when cousin Peter comes to visit and Anne -- who had hastily decided that the boy is dangerously disturbed, perhaps even a threat to the new baby -- prepares a picnic with each child's lemonade in a separate, labeled bottle. As lunch approaches, Anne herself looks like she might be having second thoughts about something. Then the baby carriage starts rolling, smashing Peter's lemonade bottle and finally barrelling over a cliff. Peter, who grabs the baby just in time and later retrieves the carriage as well, is now the family hero. Anne looks happy, and no one is ever sure just what was in that bottle. But whether it was Anne's imagination or Jan's that got temporarily out of hand, there's relief for everyone when general cheer is restored at the end.

Pub Date: June 3rd, 1971
Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan