An A From Miss Keller

illus. by Patricia Polacco. 40p. ebook available. Putnam. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399166914.
Gr 1–4—Trisha is nervous about taking Miss Keller's advanced writing class. True to the rumors, this teacher is tough, taking pains to critique Trisha's lack of emotional connection in her writing. Trisha visits with her neighbor Pop for encouragement, and he shares stories about his beloved wife and sons, who also took Killer Keller's writing class. After learning of Pop's death by sudden heart attack, Trisha writes down her feelings without worrying about her grade, and Miss Keller tells Trisha she has "given [her] words wings," finally earning an "A." The text maintains a conversational tone throughout ("Guess what?" and "She actually hugged me!") to tell this personal story of loss and growth. Polacco's colorful illustrations are engaging, with pencil lines used in the characters' facial expressions to evoke a range of emotion, from Miss Keller's birdlike scrutiny to Trisha's anxiety and heartbreaking grief. The middle school setting may make this text-heavy picture book better suited for independent reading or for sharing with older children. Add Miss Keller to Polacco's collection of inspirational teachers, including Mr. Falker, Mr. Lincoln, and Miss Chew.
VERDICT A recommended general purchase, especially where longer picture books are needed.

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