When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Illustration ©Lorraine Rocha

Have you ever made a birthday wish list and then received something so far afield from what you asked for that you cringed as you opened the present?

And was it from someone you loved? Did you smile and say “thank you!” with enthusiasm?

Text ©Jamie Deenihan Illustration ©Lorraine Rocha

Here we have a little girl who’s written her list, one that includes a robot dog, drone, computer, phone, remote control car, and headphones.

Grandma may have read this list, but she has other ideas, as Grandmas often do. Like unplugging her granddaughter from all that technology and giving her a LEMON TREE, instead.

Oh, my.

Text ©Jamie Deenihan Illustration ©Lorraine Rocha

Written in second person point of view, the reader becomes this little girl, who then gets some helpful coaching about being polite to Grandma and nice to the tree…nice as in DO NOT HARM YOUR LEMON TREE.

Cue the fantasy sequence about all the dire things she could do to that tree. But she won’t do any of them.  Instead, she dutifully nurtures and protects her tree. Brings it inside during the winter, repots it, and makes sure it has plenty of light.

Think you know where this is going? The little girl will harvest lemons in the summer, make lemonade, and discover the wonders of entrepreneurship through her lemonade stand. Well, you would only be partially right.

This book is about so much more. It’s about how one small tree can trigger urban renewal and foster community. When the little girl takes her hard-earned lemonade money to the store—finally!—to buy what she really wants, it turns out that caring for the tree has changed her priorities.

The end papers of the book, the BEFORE:

Illustration ©Lorraine Rocha

Illustration ©Lorraine Rocha

And the AFTER:

provide all the clues you need for how this story ends. Grandma may be a secret agent for what we call the Friends of the Urban Forest here in San Francisco.

It also turns out that greening your neighborhood makes everyone and everything more neighborly. Another interesting fact I learned from a perfect picture book last week: Your body releases serotonin when bacteria in soil come into contact with your skin. Gardening makes you feel better!


  • Figure out ways to “green” the area around your home, planting wildflower seeds or small annuals in pots if you don’t have any open patches of ground. If you can, plant a tree!
  • Volunteer to work in a community garden near your home.
  • Make your own lemonade from scratch, using the recipe included in the book.
  • Make your own lemonade stand and sell homemade lemonade and cookies.
  • Write secret messages in invisible lemon juice ink.

Title: When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree

Author: Jamie Deenihan

Illustrator: Lorraine Rocha

Publisher: Sterling, 2019

Ages: Pre-K through grade 4

Themes: Community, birthdays, sharing

For more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s website.

20 thoughts on “When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. roughwighting says:

    WOW. What a book! Being a lemon lover, and a grandmother (I do wish grandmothers were shown to be a bit more young – not always white hair, large tunics, and knitting on their free time – I think I need to get this book.

  2. Sarah Tobias says:

    You convinced me. I have places a hold on the book. Can’t wait to read it. Urban renewal and nature! Yippy. I think I shall pair this with Lemonade and Maybe Something Beautiful.

    I need to win the lottery so I can buy so many books and add them to school library collections around the word and Start pop-up nature programs, and make lemonade.

  3. Maria Marshall says:

    Jilanne, I saw this book the other day. It is really an entertaining and instructive book both on dealing with emotions, making the best out of what life hands you, and as you mentioned urban forestry. I love the before/after images you included in your great review. Thanks.

  4. Mrs. P says:

    The title of this book grabbed me right away! I love the whole concept of reaction, manners, entrepreneurship and community!

    Would like to buy this book!

  5. Leslie Leibhardt Goodman - Writer says:

    Well… this certainly stirred some strong memories in me from one particular Christmas when my biggest present wish produced quite a disappointing substitute. I’m strangely looking forward to reading this book. Maybe because I know I’ll be able to relate to the main character, but more so because I want to find out what happens.

  6. Patricia Tilton says:

    One smart and clever grandmother! The facial expressions on the girl are priceless! Curious how this story turns out. I think we all share memories like that. Mine involved the dresses my grandmother designed for me (yes she was a designer) as a girl — but I wanted store bought dresses to wear to school.

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