The Lemonade Trick



by Scott Corbett

Published 1960

This is the first in a lively little series of books aimed at (I would say) 4th-5th grade.  In this book, we meet Kerby and his dog, Waldo.  Kerby and Waldo, in turn, meet a mysterious old lady in the park, Mrs. Graymalkin.  Kerby helps Mrs. Graymalkin out, and she tells him that if he comes  back the next day, she will give him a present–something that used to belong to her son when he was a little boy.  The gift turns out to be a chemistry set–“Feats o’ Magic!”

Now, obviously, we don’t want children conversing with strangers in the park anymore, much less accepting presents from them, but, nonetheless, I have found these books to be hilarious.  Each story involves the use of a different beaker from the chemistry set, and adventures ensue.  Kerby and his best friend, Fenton, are torn about whether or not the chemistry set really is magic, and whether or not Mrs. Graymalkin is a–“well, you know, something she couldn’t be, not in real life”–(they never actually say “witch”). Fenton is convinced that she actually a very intelligent scientist, but Kerby isn’t so sure.

In The Lemonade Trick, Kerby discovers that mixing one of the beakers with lemonade makes an irresistible drink–and drinking it makes you feel “good”–after drinking it, Kerby spends the rest of the day cleaning out the basement and the garage, much to his parents’ surprise and concern!  It is a funny and sweet book, with a nice ending.

This is the same author who wrote the Inspector Tearle books.  These are illustrated by Paul Galdone, whose line drawings grace many of my old books.  It’s a fun and light-hearted read, an easy 4/5.

Monk’s Hood



by Ellis Peters

Published 1980

In this third Brother Cadfael book, the brothers at the Benedictine Abbey at Shrewsbury are in a state of uncertainty.  Their Father Abbot has been called to a meeting, and there is a strong possibility that he will return without the authority with which he is leaving.  Meantime, he feels that he must leave several pieces of business unfinished, for the new Abbot may not have the same inclinations as the old.  One of these items is the acceptance of an estate in exchange for the life-long care of the current owner and his wife.  When this man dies before that charter can be signed, it is up to Cadfael to determine whether or not the obvious suspect is actually the murderer.

One of the things that I love about these books is the rich background Peters provides.  Between these books and Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles, I am quite intrigued by Wales and Welsh culture, if for no other reason than every time I see Welsh names, they seem to include an impossible combination of letters.  This story also includes a meeting between Cadfael and the fiancee of his youth, providing us with more insight into the character that is Cadfael.

You’ll notice that this book cover is from the television series.  I only saw a few episodes, but it was actually a decent rendition.  However, these books are so full of characters and conversations, that, to me, the television version felt a bit abrupt and confusing if you weren’t already familiar with the story.  But it’s been a super long time since I watched, so I could be completely wrong.

Anyway, 5/5 for Cadfael.