“Sugar and spice and everything nice―that’s what little girls are made of” goes the old nursery rhyme. Today’s female characters can be described any number of ways―feisty, bold, thoughtful, or fearless. Spring brings the return of our favorite gals and introduces new friends. In easy-to-read, chapter book format, these youngsters and their dilemmas provide laughter and food for thought for independent readers. Here are the top picks from the editors of Junior Library Guild.
BRANFORD, Anna. Violet Mackerel’s Remarkable Recovery. illus. by Elanna Allen. S & S/Atheneum. 2013. ISBN 9781442435889. JLG Level: I+ : Independent Readers (Grades 2–4).
Whether your readers know Violet or not, they will surely want to after reading the fourth book in this chapter book series. Violet has a charm all her own and is quick to share it with others. In this installment, she has an extremely sore throat. Dr. Singh confirms that her tonsils must come out, and warns that her voice could be different after surgery. Violet is quite excited to think that soon she will be an opera singer on the radio. Meeting an old lady in the waiting room, Violet learns that she is not the only one with rhinoceroses (instead of butterflies) in her stomach. The two promise that they will have tea after their remarkable recoveries. Not knowing how to contact her new friend, Violet begins to “Think Outside the Box About Finding Iris MacDonald.” Will she be able to locate Iris? Will Violet sing opera on the radio? Readers will rush to the end to find out.
MACLACHLAN, Patricia. White Fur Flying. S & S/McElderry. 2013. ISBN 9781442421714. JLG Level: A : Intermediate Readers (Grades 3–5).
Much-loved author MacLachlan introduces a new female character whose family is in the animal business. Mom rescues Great Pyrenees―dogs that can weigh up to 140 pounds. Dad is a veterinarian, and sisters, Zoe and Alice, love all creatures. Close to their home, Phillip is living with his aunt and uncle while his parents work out a problem. Alice, a budding writer, invents stories about why the new boy won’t talk and why the lady is so severe. She decides that the neighbor man is a spy. A mocking parrot keeps the story lively and breaks the tension. A vicious storm drives the aunt to the neighbors for help, bringing drama to both families. At the novel’s riveting conclusion, Zoe does what she does best: listens and observes before reacting, solving the central conflict. Readers will laugh, cry, and cheer for all the characters in a story that’s bound to be a classic.
PENNYPACKER, Sara. Clementine and the Spring Trip. illus. by Marla Frazee. Disney/Hyperion. 2013. ISBN 9781423123576. JLG Level: I : Independent Readers (Grades 2–4).
Spring delivers two things to Clementine―a new classmate and a school field trip. Clementine loses her usual spotlight when Olive becomes part of the third grade class. Classmates speak in the new girl’s invented language except for Clementine who can’t master the technique. Another growing concern is the silent eating rule made by the fourth graders who will join them on the field trip to Plymouth Rock. Add friend Margaret’s obsession with rules and cleaning and this sixth book in the series is sure to become a new favorite. Readers will laugh at Clementine’s voice and her attempts to change her world. Rather than face silent eaters or new partners, she boldly volunteers to stay behind to spy on the party for the principal. “What party?” asks Mrs. Rice. “The one the lunchroom ladies and the custodians are going to have. You know. With all the great food the lunchroom ladies hide from us.” The principal appreciates her generosity but knows Clementine’s teacher is counting on her to buddy-up with the new student. And besides, “there is no party.” Problems build as she confronts her challenges head on―including the mysterious “Cloud on Bus 7.”
Always a treat to read Clementine’s honest approach to life, Pennypacker’s latest offering is an enchanting gift to spring.
WELLS, Rosemary. Ivy Takes Care. illus. by Jim LaMarche. Candlewick. 2013. ISBN 9780763653521. JLG Level: A : Intermediate Readers (Grades 3–5).
When her best friend leaves for a wealthy summer camp, Ivy realizes the differences between their two lives. Her parents work at a dude ranch in 1949, with envelopes of money for various expenses. They could never afford to send her to any camp. Ivy decides to spend the summer making money by taking care of pets. Following the encouragement of the local veterinarian, she decides she wants to save her earnings for college. Told in three short stories, the author complicates Ivy’s summer with a male character who cannot stay out of trouble. The two develop a friendship of sorts, and work together to solve their problems. Told with the familiar gentle voice of beloved author Rosemary Wells, Ivy is a strong female protagonist who takes responsibility for her future and learns to accept her own value as a person. With an unforgettable boy/girl pair, it makes for a great classroom read aloud.
For ideas about how to use these books and links to supportive sites, check out the Junior Library Guild blog, Shelf Life.
Junior Library Guild is a collection development service that helps school and public libraries acquire the best new children’s and young adult books. Season after season, year after year, Junior Library Guild book selections go on to win awards, collect starred or favorable reviews, and earn industry honors. Visit us at www.JuniorLibraryGuild.com.
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