cover image Ava and the Real Lucille

Ava and the Real Lucille

Cari Best, illus. by Madeline Valentine. FSG/Ferguson, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-374-39903-0

There's a new member in the club of disappointing pets that cajole their way into their reluctant owners' hearts: the parakeet Lucille. Her owner, Ava, is especially disheartened because she went to all the trouble of composing a special poem about the pet she really wanted%E2%80%94"A dog, a dog/ A big brown dog"%E2%80%94to enter into a local pet shop's contest (the prize was never specified beyond "Win a Pet"). But Lucille's winsome ways (like balancing on Ava's pencil while she does math homework), coupled with a minor health crisis (a seed gets stuck in Lucille's throat), bond her to Ava and even inspire a new poetic tribute: "She runs and jumps/ And kisses, too/ She's ALMOST like a dog/ And not a dumb old bird." Best (Easy as Pie) doesn't hurry her storytelling, but as readers get used to the novelistic pacing, they'll also develop a soft spot for Valentine's (Albertine's Got Talent!) potato-faced characters, whose dot eyes and stubby little noses become increasingly endearing as the pages go by. Ages 4%E2%80%938. Illustrator's agent: Rebecca Sherman, Writers House. (Sept.)