Ava and the Real Lucille

Ava and the Real Lucille

by Cari Best

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When Ava and her sister Arlie see the "Write a Poem / Win a Pet" sign in Mr. Noah's pet shop window, Ava is sure the prize is going to be a dog and convinces Arlie to enter the contest with her. The girls write the best poem they can, and while waiting and hoping to win, they decide that "Lucille" would be the perfect name for a dog. But when Mr. Noah finally


When Ava and her sister Arlie see the "Write a Poem / Win a Pet" sign in Mr. Noah's pet shop window, Ava is sure the prize is going to be a dog and convinces Arlie to enter the contest with her. The girls write the best poem they can, and while waiting and hoping to win, they decide that "Lucille" would be the perfect name for a dog. But when Mr. Noah finally announces that they have won, Ava is so disappointed when she sees the prize, a parakeet, that she says, "You're not the real Lucille!" Ava must discover for herself that with a little patience, a little imagination, and a lot of love, her new pet will be every bit as much fun as a dog—and a fine friend besides.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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—"A dog, a dog/ A big brown dog"—to 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 4–8. Illustrator's agent: Rebecca Sherman, Writers House. (Sept.)
From the Publisher

“Many kids will relate to Ava's craving for a canine…” —BCCB

“Endearing.” —Publishers Weekly

“Lucille is the real deal.” —Kirkus

“Reads aloud well . . . A warm story with its own quirky charm.” —Booklist

Children's Literature - Carrie Hane Hung
Ava along with her sister Arlie enter a poetry contest at Mr. Noah's Pet Shop. The contest prize is a pet. Ava sees the contest as a way for her to get a pet dog that she wants. She already selected Lucille as the name for the dog and hopes that the dog would be just like Feebee who is Mr. Alley's dog that lives next door. Arlie cautions Ava that they may not win the contest and the pet may not be a dog; she points out that the contest poster did not indicate the type of pet as the prize. However, Ava continues to have hope during the weeks that pass. Mr. Noah calls and informs the sisters that they have won first prize in the pet contest. When Mr. Noah arrives with Lucille, Ava is in for a surprise and disappointment. The illustrations have a warm, yellow cast to them and the pictures support the plot of the story. The story concludes with a warm-hearted ending as Ava resolves her pet issues. A point of discussion after the story may be about what Ava really wanted in a pet and what changed her feelings about Lucille. Reviewer: Carrie Hane Hung
Kirkus Reviews
Ava and her little sister, Arlie, win first prize in a poetry contest at their local pet store, with an unspecified pet as the prize. But instead of a longed-for dog, the pet turns out to be a parakeet--not what Ava had in mind at all. The girls had planned to name their prize-dog Lucille, so the parakeet is awarded the name instead and welcomed into the family by Arlie and the girls' mother. Ava resists, glaring at the bird and making snide, often hilarious comments. Gradually the girls come to understand their new pet, and bit by bit, the bird wins them over, leading Ava to proclaim the parakeet as "the real Lucille" in a concluding poem. The parakeet's minor illness adds drama and solidifies her importance to the family. The story unfolds gracefully with just the right amount of text, incorporating subtle humor, natural dialogue and interesting tidbits of information about parakeets. Softly shaded illustrations convey a nostalgic air, full of cozy details of the pleasant home shared by the mother, her daughters and little Lucille. A quiet, warm story with real emotions and a real plot. As a pet, Lucille is the real deal. (Picture book. 3-7)

Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

CARI BEST has written many award-winning picture books, including Sally Jean, the Bicycle Queen, a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year; Are You Going to be Good?, a Parents' Choice Award Winner; and most recently, Easy as Pie. Ms. Best lives in Weston, Connecticut.

MADELINE VALENTINE is the illustrator of Albertine's Got Talent by Shena Power. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

When I was ten I did a brave thing. I traded my fancy birthday bicycle with its chrome fenders, balloon tires, and uncool foot brakes to my cousin for her no-frills yard-sale bike with its streamlined fenders, skinny tires, and very cool hand brakes. We were both deliriously happy with our trade. "No backsies, touch blacksies," we said to each other. The only person who was not happy was my mother, who was convinced that I had done something really stupid. But I hadn’t. I had followed my heart, which for me, a shy, submissive child, was quite an accomplishment.

I rode my "new" bicycle everywhere with great pride -- to the park to play ball with the boys, to the public library and back, my paper shopping bag bulging with the likes of The Borrowers, Little Women, Ginger Pye, and All-of-a-Kind Family. I even pedaled to LaGuardia Airport and rode across the shadows of the giant planes parked on the ground.

I used to pretend that my bike was my car. We didn’t own one, and almost never took a vacation. But I didn’t miss going on car trips because I had my bike. The world outside our apartment was fantastic: the sidewalks and the stoops, the sprinklers at the playground, other neighborhoods, streets, and schoolyards. A neighbor showed me how to garden, a teacher encouraged me to speak up when I was afraid, and a librarian let me watch while she worked. There were animals, too: a beagle named Freedom, alley cats just hanging out, wild birds and tame birds, and every sort of insect that I tried my hardest not to run over. I was so shy as a young person that I never raised my hand in class and didn’t even like to answer the telephone. I know that I discovered writing as early as the third grade because recently, after my third-grade teacher had seen an article about me in The New York Times, she sent me some stories and poems that I’d written when I was in her class.

When I was almost forty, I did another brave thing. I mailed away what would one day be Three Cheers for Catherine the Great! to fourteen different publishers. I received several encouraging letters. One was from Melanie Kroupa, who told me that my story about my Russian grandmother reminded her of her own grandmother, who was Czech. Would I be interested in working with her? she wrote. Would I be? You bet I would! That letter started me off on my writing career, with Melanie as my one and only editor.

One of the things I like best about being a writer is getting letters. Here is one of my most memorable:

Dear Cari Best:
I like your books. They’re real nice and so interesting. Even my teacher likes them. Maybe someday you could make a cereal with a lot of vitamins or be on the computer or make a CD. All of this stuff you could do because you are a arthur.
Love, Kevin

Growing up in New York City in an extended European family dominated by confident, beautiful women who loved to talk, I did a lot of listening. I still do. And a lot of looking, too. One of the highlights of my childhood was winning a schoolwide spelling bee with the words "aurora borealis." One of the highlights of my adulthood was being invited to the Baseball Hall of Fame to talk about my childhood. A graduate of Queens College of the City University of New York, I have a master’s degree in library science from Drexel University in Philadelphia and served as the first librarian at the International Reading Association’s headquarters in Newark, Delaware. Later, while I was growing my children, my dogs, and my flowers, I was Editorial Director at Weston Woods Studios. Two of my children are now teachers. I have a dog named Gypsy, a bird named Bo Peep, and a husband named Poops. I know I am lucky to be able to write every day — and to ride my bike, too.

Cari Best lives in Weston, Connecticut.

Madeline Valentine grew up painting and drawing in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Today, she is a 2007 graduate of Pratt Institute, and paints and draws in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She is the illustrator of Ava and the Real Lucille by Cari Best.

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