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Little Cat's Luck by Marion Dane Bauer, illustated by Jennifer A. Bell, 224pp, RL 3

Little Cat's Luck by Marion Dane Bauer, with marvelous illustrations by Jennifer A. Bell, is a gem of a book, and not just because it's a verse novel . I have long loved the genre of the verse novel, both for the precise beauty of the language and the ability to tell a complex story in a compact format. Recently, I have also discovered that verse novels are an ideal format for the students at the school where I am the librarian, the majority of whom are English language learners who are reading below grade level. Verse novels allow them to access a longer, more challenging book that looks less intimidating because there are fewer words on the page. With Little Cat's Luck, readers are in for an exciting, suspenseful emotional story about cooperation, kindness and learning to accept each other.
Patches is a little calico cat with a happy, cozy life, yet, she is searching for a "special place to be her very own." A loose screen and a falling leaf lead to an outside a…
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May B. by Caroline Starr Rose, 240 pp, RL 4

I love stories of life on the prairie, circa Laura Ingalls Wilder and I also love verse novels, which makes May B. by Caroline Starr Rose the perfect book for me, and for any reader who likes a story about survival, bravery and perseverance. 
When we first meet twelve-year-old Mavis Elizabeth Betterly, May B. for short, she has just dared her beloved older brother Hiram, who can do no wrong in his parent's eyes, to chop off a hank of her braid and lost some hair in the process. At dinner that night, May learns that her father has hired her out to newlyweds, the Oblingers, until Christmas. This means May will not be able to return to school and she might have to give up her dream of taking the teacher exam in two years. She was probably going to have to give up the dream anyway, since she can't read. On top of this, she knows she will not be missed on the small soddy farm her family is homesteading. Hiram, a year older, can help in ways she can't. Pa tells her she is helping…

Unbound: A Novel in Verse by Ann E. Burg, 352pp, RL 4

Unbound: A Novel in Verse by Ann E. Burg is the first person narrative of nine-year-old Grace, a slave living in with her mother, her husband, their two toddler sons and the elderly Aunt Sara. Burg uses Grace's questioning voice to tell the story of her family, and the stories of other slaves, with Southern tone that is not quite dialect and often lyrical.
While their lives are bleak, Grace and Aunt Sara tend to the small cabin, the "moonlight garden" and Willy and Thomas while Grace's Mama and her husband, the man Grace calls Uncle John, work the fields from before sunrise to after sunset. With he fair skin and blue eyes, Grace is called up the hill to work at the Big House. Unbound begins with her tantrum and refusal to leave her home. Mama tries to comfort her, but, in the middle of the night, Aunt Sara cautions her, warning that the Missus is "as hateful as a toad," and always looking for any reason to punish. This proves true enough and, despite warning…

Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar, 256 pp, RL 4

Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar, with absolutely beautiful cover and spot art by Penelope Dullaghan is a book I will not forget. The heart of the story is Ruthie Mizrahi and the year she spends in bed recovering after a horrible car accident, but Behar fills her story with a rich cast of characters, making this one of those rare books that is organically diverse.
It is 1966 and Ruthie has just moved from Cuba to Queens with her parents and younger brother to join mother's parents, Baba and Zeide, and her Aunt Sylvia. In fact, Sylvia has an American husband and children, Dennis and Lily. Ruthie and her classmate Ramu, whose family immigrated from India, are anxious to get out of the "dumb" class and prove that they are smart even if English isn't their first language. Ruthie is also yearning for go-go boots, just like her elegant neighbor Danielle, who is from Belgium. A fatal, multi-car accident leaves Ruthie in a full body cast, in bed for a year and being taken care…

The Doodle Book of Feel Good by Charice Mericle Harper

The coloring and doodle craze never really grabbed me, but, working with kids, I am continually surprised by how much they love to draw and color. I bowed and gave them what they wanted, printing out countless coloring pages (mostly Shopkins and Minecraft) and watched them speed through the process of filling in the picture. Then, while enjoying a Cosmic Kids Zen Den (guided mindfulness meditation) with my students, Ms. Jamie (if you have and/or work with kids and don't know this amazing website, I highly recommend it) was suggesting activities to help kids learnt o focus, and coloring a detailed picture was one of them. And I lightbulb went off. Happily, around the same time, The Doodle Book of Feel Good by Charice Mericle Harper appeared. Not only are Harper's doodles characteristically quirky, detailed and adorable, Harper has included thoughtful, empowering, inspirational and celebratory sayings in each doodle. Not only does The Doodle Book of Feel Good allow me to give my…

Lucía the Luchadora by Cynthia Leonor Garza, illustrated by Alyssa Bermudez

Lucía the Luchadora by Cynthia Leonore Garza with illustrations by Alyssa Bermudez is one of those rare, great kid's books that is diverse without diversity being the subject.
Lucía zips through the playground in her red cape, clearly braver and more agile than the boys in capes who tell her that, "Girls can't be superheroes!" Hearing this makes Lucía, "spicy mad. A KA-POW kind of mad!"
But, Abuela has a secret past and something that can help Lucía. When Abu was a little girl, she was a special kind of superhero, a luchadora! Abu tells Lucía that a luchadora is, "more than a masked wrestler with swift moves, more tha just a superhero with slick style. A luchadora is agile. She moves and thinks quickly. A luchadora has moxie." With Abu's silver mask on, Lucía finds the courage to go back to the playground and show those boys just how wrong they are. 
Soon, there are all sorts of luchadoras on the playground and Lucía can't wait to play with t…

Tinyville Town: I'm a Librarian by Brian Biggs

If you grew up with the marvelous, magical books of Richard Scary, then Brian Biggs's Tinyville Town Gets to Work will feel familiar to you. And, while you may wonder why we need even the slightest reworking of Scarry's richly detailed books, let me remind you that, during my own, slightly less than half a century lifetime, Scarry's books have been edited and adapted to our changing social norms. Biggs got his version of Cars and Trucks and Things that Go out of the way with his Everything Goes trilogy. With Tinyville, Biggs continues to give kids a look at the working world of adults and all the different jobs there are.


What Biggs does with his Tinyville books is put minorities like people of color and women into the work place while also giving readers a look at more meticulous aspects of the work. These books are important because, if children can see it, they can imagine it. Children's books are mirrors, windows and doors. They allow children to see themselves, in …