"The Treasure of Lemon Brown" by Walter Dean Myers is a story about Greg Ridley, who starts off having a bad day. Doing poorly at school, he is positive his dad is going to tell him he can’t play basketball for the team with whom he’s been dreaming of playing. Two nights after Mr. Ridley banishes Greg to his room to study, Greg decides to leave the house and just get away. He goes to an abandoned warehouse, where he meets Lemon Brown. Through his interactions with Lemon, Greg begins to reflect on his life.
By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!
A Quick Synopsis of "The Treasure of Lemon Brown" (Contains Spoilers)
Greg Ridley is failing math. His principal sends home a letter to his dad saying that he’s in danger of failing. Greg’s dad gives him a lecture and tells him he is crazy if he thinks he’s going to play basketball with grades like that. He sends Greg to his room to “hit the books.” Greg is devastated because playing for the Scorpions Community Center team is very important to him.
Sitting in his room, listening to a storm in the distance, Greg starts thinking about a pickup game he’d seen a while back in an abandoned warehouse. He decides to go there in the hopes of getting into a game. When he gets to the warehouse, he enters and looks around. It is dark with only the light from a few passing cars. Greg is aware of something in the room with him, and is scared. Suddenly Lemon Brown speaks up, saying he doesn’t have anything for him, and that he has a razor that could cut him up. They wind up talking for a while. Greg wants to know about Lemon’s supposed treasure. Lemon doesn’t have time to explain to him.
A group of thugs come in and toss the room, looking for Lemon and his “treasure.” Lemon and Greg quietly run from room to room, hiding. Suddenly, as they are trapped in an upstairs room, Greg howls like a wolf. Lemon throws himself at the attackers at the top of the stairs, and they all tumble down the stairs. Only Lemon returns, though he is bumped and bruised.
Greg and Mr. Brown begin talking. Lemon tells Greg of his past accomplishments as “Sweet Lemon Brown - Blues Singer and Harmonica Player.” He’d been quite famous. He had also had a wife and son, but when his wife died, his sister-in-law took the boy in. Lemon didn’t really see much of him after that. His playing wasn’t as good, once he lost his reason for playing.
Then he found out that his son had gone off to war and died. When they found his body, he was carrying his dad’s old “mouth fiddle and these clippings” of when Lemon had played. That had been his son’s treasure, and when Lemon got them back and realized that his son loved him enough to carry them everywhere he went, the clippings became his treasure. Lemon also says that every man has a treasure. With the thugs chased off, and Lemon’s story told, the rain ends and Lemon tells Greg he ought to be on his way home. Greg agrees and walks home. When he reaches his stoop, he thinks about the lecture his dad is going to give him. Somehow, it makes him smile. He has learned something important from Lemon. He has a new appreciation for his dad, and all his dad does for him.
Essential Questions for "The Treasure of Lemon Brown"
What is really important to you?
What is treasure? Does it always have to be valuable?
Which are more important: items with sentimental value or items with monetary value?
The Treasure of Lemon Brown Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers
Plot Diagram | The Treasure of Lemon Brown Summary
In grades 6-8, retelling or summarizing is a skill that needs to be practiced and refined with a variety of genres, and with books of different lengths. As students begin to explore various genres and lengths of works, it can become more challenging for students to evaluate what is most important. For this reason, students need to determine the importance of events in the plot in order to synthesize storylines.
Creating a Storyboard for retelling "The Treasure of Lemon Brown" will challenge students to decide what is essential. Similar to a "Five Finger Retell" or the “Plot Diagram”, students need to think critically about the events in order. With the Storyboard Creator, students will have the option and opportunity to explain and explore the characters in the plot with depth and accuracy.
As a lesson, consider having students plan their storyboard with a blank template prior to creating the full storyboard online. Students should begin with the retold narrative in each box before adding character dialogue. This will allow them to focus on the purpose of retelling, without getting distracted by the details of the storyboard.
After students create their retelling storyboards, they can print and cut them out, then have a partner try to put the events in order!
Greg gets in trouble for his poor grades. He gets grounded by his father who lectures him and tries to explain that his education is more important than playing basketball.
Instead of staying home and studying, Greg leaves the house and goes to an old abandoned building where he thinks about his life. There he meets Lemon Brown, a homeless man who teaches him an important lesson about life.
After hearing the story of Lemon’s life, and finding out that treasure doesn’t mean that something is worth a lot of money, Greg goes home to confront his problems and learns the true value of life and the importance of family.
[ELA-Literacy/L/6/5] Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings
[ELA-Literacy/L/7/3] Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening
Settings help to bring the reader into the story and help make the words on the page come alive. When the setting and characters change in a story, it signals to the reader that the story is progressing and that action is taking place. In "The Treasure of Lemon Brown", the readers are introduced to a young boy named Greg who lives in New York City. As the setting changes in the story from his home to an abandoned building, so does Greg. Readers often notice that the mood of a character changes with the setting. The mood is reflective and plays off all aspects of the story.
A great activity to do with your students is to have them create a setting map, which allows students visualize Greg’s setting. Using the text boxes below, they can find direct quotes that explain the mood in the setting.
The story begins in the kitchen of Greg, who is sure he is going to be grounded by his father for doing poorly in a class at school.
Greg’s dad is upset with him over his poor grades, and as his father lectures him Greg feels annoyed. Instead of going upstairs to study, he leaves the house.
Shows the dark, dangerous street as he walks around in the dark.
Greg thinks about not being able to play basketball, and he thinks about his father's lecture.
The story gets more exciting in the abandoned, run-down building in which Lemon Brown is squatting.
Greg begins to talk to Lemon Brown and learns that every man has a treasure.
[ELA-Literacy/RL/7/2] Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text
[ELA-Literacy/RL/8/2] Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text
Themes, symbols, and motifs come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify a specific theme from "The Treasure of Lemon Brown" and support their choices with details from the text. Using a grid layout and cells with title and description boxes, show scenes from the story that depict the father/son relationships that are represented in it. In the example below, you can see that the theme was about father-son relationships.
Example Theme in "The Treasure of Lemon Brown"
Greg and his dad
Greg is very angry at his dad because he's been grounded from playing basketball - his passion. Greg runs away, but after meeting Lemon, he rethinks his anger. His dad only wants the best for him.
Lemon and his son
Lemon's sister raised his son while he traveled and played his music. He learned that his son was killed in the war and that he had kept his dad's harmonica and news clippings with him.