Thank you to Friya Bankwalla for organizing the Payback on Poplar Lane Blog Tour.
I never got into the lemonade stand business myself as a kid (not a busy enough neighborhood), but I remember reading about kids in books making them and I did see actual stands in other neighborhoods. Still do, as a matter of fact. When I read the synopsis for Payback on Poplar Lane, comped as Shark Tank but for kids, I thought it would be a laugh to see what these two rival entrepreneurs got up to.
Published: 30 January 2018
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
ABC’s Shark Tank meets The Terrible Two when two sixth grade entrepreneurs compete to become top mogul on their block.
Twelve-year-old Peter Gronkowski prides himself on being a professional businessman. Tired of the cliched lemonade stands that line his block, he decides to start a better business with the help of an intern. But his intern of choice, the quiet and writerly Rachel Chambers, turns out to be more than he bargained for. Rachel is innovative, resourceful, driven–and when she’s had enough of Peter’s overbearing management style, she decides to start a competing empire next door. As their rivalry and sabotage tactics become more outrageous–Slander! Espionage! Lemonade threats!–Peter and Rachel ultimately learn the hard way that “nothing gold can stay” and that friendship is more important than money.
Alternating perspectives reveal what really motivates each character to win. And Peter’s memos and “business tips” as well as excerpts from Rachel’s melodramatic novel-in-progress generate fresh hilarity and tension at every page turn. Payback on Poplar Lane is a pitch-perfect comedy with heart, reminiscent of your favorite classic middle-grade series.
Rating: 4 Stars
Remember when you were a kid and started your own business? Even if you didn’t, the image of a kid’s lemonade stand should be easily imaginable and what happens in Payback on Poplar Lane goes far beyond a simple drink stand.
While there was a lot of humor in the book, there were also a lot of scenes that made me equal parts sad and frustrated. Peter is overbearing in his business practices and recitations of “business tips”, but when it’s his turn to tell the story, you get insight into why he is the way he is. His father was laid off and this spurned in Peter the need to be successful, to help his family, and I think he took it a little far and forgot to be a kid, but I understood the feeling. Peter’s family might not be as poor as some, but the changes they had to make, such as drinking non-name brands and not having dinner out anymore, would certainly be a shock to a kid’s system, their sense of continuity. Peter is so preoccupied with protecting himself, with “stepping up as breadwinner of the family”, that he takes on far too much for a child and forgets to experience life as a kid while he still can.
I didn’t like Peter at all because he tended to be too harsh and critical, particularly of his father, but I understood where he was coming from.
Where he and Rachel had some similarities was in their worry about how others regarded them. For Peter it was how much money his family had, how they had leftover nights and he couldn’t go to the Poplar Prep school. For Rachel, it was in regards to her quite nature and the desire to blend in.
As Payback on Poplar Lane begins, Rachel is really withdrawn, both with her contemporaries and with her best friend. It affects her in relationships, such as the unfortunate one she develops when she becomes Peter’s intern. However, her strength starts to shine when she realizes that she wants to matter and it’s not just about mattering to others. It’s about standing up for herself, for her ideas, and the hard work she puts into what she’s involved in, whether a fortune telling business or an interactive “gold” digging adventure.
The kids, from the two main characters to the wide cast of side characters, were fun and modern. They were a pleasure to read about because I didn’t get bored or bogged down with any of them. The adults as side characters were not a big part of the story in action, but their presence was felt: Peter’s father and his job struggles, Rachel’s deceased mother, etc. Everyone had a reason for being on the page and I liked that.
Payback on Poplar Lane was a fun middle grade read that will appeal to a wide readership.
While creating this playlist, I wanted to take not only from the Payback on Poplar Lane text directly but from the atmosphere created by the novel. From Rachel’s bravery in wanting to sing If I Were King of the Forest due to newfound courage to the overall feeling of kid business, particularly if they were in the summer time, each song has a levity that I think describes in music the feeling you’ll get from Rachel and Peter’s story.
My personal favorite is Devil in Disguise by Elvis Presley. My first thought was it being used for the film Lilo & Stitch when Lilo is showing Stitch around town. The parallel between them and Rachel dealing with Peter had me chuckling.
Blog Tour Schedule for PAYBACK ON POPLAR LANE
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.