From School Library Journal
Grade 2-5 When a writer spends six weeks in a fourth-grade classroom, Lucy begins to understand the power of the written word. Colorful Ms. Mirabel introduces the students to the idea that writing can change their lives and inspires them to find their own stories and to write them. Lucy doesn't believe her life is interesting enough to write about, but Ms. Mirabel insists that everyone has an important tale to tell. She begins by reading passages from famous pieces of literature that eloquently describe places, characters, and moments in time. After school, Lucy and her friends Evie, Henry, and Russell discuss the tumultuous events that have shaped their own lives, including Lucy's mother's cancer, Evie's parents' divorce, and the death of Henry's dog. MacLachlan creates marvelous characters, children who can empathize with and support one another and who produce amazing poetry that captures their sadness and courage. The result is a tale that draws readers into a dichotomous world that is serious and lighthearted, sad and happy, real and unreal. Children will enjoy the lively characters and warm friendships depicted in this early chapter book, and it will make a memorable read-aloud to help teach the important story elements that will encourage young readers and writers to explore the world of words as they find their own voices. Carole Phillips, Greenacres Elementary School, Scarsdale, NY
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*Starred Review* Ms. Mirabel, a visiting poet, works with a fourth-grade class over several weeks as they first discuss why people write poetry and then attempt to express themselves in verse. “I, myself, write to change my life, to make it come out the way I want it to,” states Ms. Mirabel and thus, she becomes a catalyst for the students’ growing awareness in writing and gives them a means to cope with changes in their lives. Narrator Lucy, whose mother is recovering from cancer treatments, often meets her friends to talk about their hopes, their fears, their families, and their charismatic poetry mentor. Children reading the book may long for such friends, who talk so openly about serious matters, support each other in direct and indirect ways, and find plenty to laugh about, too. As the story draws to a close, even the adults in their lives are drawn into the magical power of words. Showing great respect for both her readers and her craft, Newbery Award winner MacLachlan makes every word count in Lucy’s smooth-flowing, economical narrative. Though a number of characters cry along the way, the story is anything but sad, and even poignant is too soppy an adjective for the swift, subtle depiction of characters’ realizations, revelations, and connections. A memorable chapter book. Grades 2-5. --Carolyn Phelan