cover image Good Luck Mrs K

Good Luck Mrs K

Louise Borden. Margaret K. McElderry Books, $15 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-82147-9

Readers be warned, this is lump-in-the-throat material. Borden (Albie the Lifeguard; The Little Ships) tackles a difficult subject not often found in picture books, in a sensitive story about a third-grade class whose teacher is suddenly stricken with cancer. Mrs. Kempczinski's (""Say it like this... Kemp-chin-ski!"") students love everything about her, from the plastic worm earrings and candy worms she brings in on Worm Day to the special dances she does when all the homework comes in on time. When ""Mrs. K."" is hospitalized for cancer treatment, the students rally to her support, sending letters and keeping her updated on what they are learning with her substitute. The day after school ends for the summer, the principal reconvenes the class for a surprise--Mrs. K. is there for a visit. ""Her cheeks weren't as chubby as before, but I could still hear all that fun in Mrs. K.'s voice,"" notes the third-grade narrator, and together Mrs. K.'s students skate through the empty halls, chanting their beloved teacher's name and wishing her luck. Borden's understated prose rings true, and the inherent poignancy in her text is underscored by first-time illustrator Gustavson's expressive watercolors. He does a superb job with the faces in particular, the characters' emotions are carefully nuanced, and his slightly somber palette of grays and earth tones sets the mood without dampening the affection in the story. A thoughtful and original effort on all accounts. Ages 6-10. (May)