cover image Just Grace

Just Grace

Charise Mericle Harper, . . Houghton, $15 (138pp) ISBN 978-0-618-64642-5

The energetic eight-year-old narrator of Harper’s (The Invisible Mistakecase) sprightly story is eager to share the injustices of her life. She did not get to be the magician’s helper at her very own birthday party and she had to play a stationary tree rather than a dancing corncob in the Thanksgiving play. Worst of all, since there are three other girls named Grace in her class, her teacher has dubbed her Just Grace when she really just wants to be called Grace. When she vents her name dilemma to the sympathetic French flight attendant who rents the basement apartment in Grace’s house, the woman counters with another tale of woe. She tells Grace that their next-door neighbor broke her leg when she fell off a ladder, almost squashing her beloved cat, Crinkles, who is now terrified of her owner and her orange cast. Grace springs into action with a plan meant to cheer up the despondent neighbor: she will send her postcards featuring photos of Crinkles and messages written in the feline’s voice. Yet when the postcards arrive at the same time the cat goes missing, they are mistaken for ransom notes and the classmate Grace least likes is accused of catnapping Crinkles. In a predictable but satisfying denouement, the two resourceful youngsters bury their differences, sort out the misunderstanding and manage to find the missing pet. Grace’s spirited annotated drawings and her inimitable narrative’s arrangement into brief vignettes makes this a good choice for kids just beginning to tackle chapter books. Ages 6-10. (Apr.)