So my niece started by recommending "The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had" by Kristin Levine. I loved Kristin Levine's other book, "The Lions of Little Rock" so it didn't take a lot of prodding to read "The Best Bad Luck". It did not disappoint. "The Best Bad Luck" is set in Alabama in 1918. The main character is Dit, who is the 8th of 10 kids and is worried that no one knows who he is. He is hoping that the new postmaster will have a son his age to play with. The new postmaster has a DAUGHTER and is African American. Emma wears beautiful clothes and reads beautiful books and Dit is sure that she won't be any fun to be around but it turns out they are both surprised by how much they enjoy each other's company. They have many adventures and it turns out that THEY not only change but their community ends up changing. It has big themes of friendship and loyalty and some great historical connections to the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement as well the influenza epidemic. Kristin Levine has a real gift for metaphorical language and writes some completely amazing similes. This might be good paired up with "Three Times Lucky" by Sheila Turnage.
I also read an advanced reader's copy of "The Tale of Rescue" by Michael J. Rosen. I do love a good dog story and this one is terrific. It opens telling about a cattle herding dog. The author does a great job of describing how the dog works the cattle and how much pleasure the dog derives from doing her job well. The story then switches to a family on vacation from Florida. They are enjoying the place they are staying and marveling at the winter weather. The family goes out for a walk in the snow and are completely surprised by a white out. They get disoriented and then lost. They hunker down in a small snow cave that they make themselves and wait to figure out what's going to happen next. The dad tries whistling to get someone's attention and the someone ends up being the dog. One of the things that's really great about this story is how fast it moves (much like the dog!) and I think that will appeal to a lot of the kids who are more reluctant readers. It also has lovely watercolor illustrations that help even more with the visualization of the story. Loved this one.
And then there was the picture book.
This one was called "Sonya's Chickens" by Phoebe Wahl. A little girl named Sonya gets some chickens and takes very good care of them. But one day something bad happens and Sonya has to figure out how to cope with that. The pictures are bright and colorful and kind of like folk art. It would be a good one paired up with "My pig Amarillo" by Satomi Ichikawa.