Thelma the comforter
First up on my C. R. A.L, reading list is The Magical Ms. Plum by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Amy Portnoy. Ms. Plum is a popular teacher with a very special supply closet. Every time she sends a student in to fetch an item, she or he comes out with an enchanted animal. These visitors help the kids to learn about themselves. A gloomy boy meets a silly blackbird, an unpopular girl is pampered by a team of willing squirrels, and a rough tough cowgirl want-to-be learns to except her girly, pink-loving classmate with the help of a tiny horse. Each adventure is illustrated with black and white cartoon drawings.
When I first started reading this short (104 page) chapter book, I was worried that the morals learned would kill the pleasure of the story, but this turned out to be untrue. I was won over by several of the student's encounters and enjoyed it when Ms. Plum met her own animal teacher. The story of fearful Nadia resonated with me, as I am a champion worrier. When Lucy tells Nadia bad news like " The ice caps are melting...There are angry cows running around. And the birds are getting this really bad flu", Nadia bites her nails and becomes unable to sleep at night. Luckily, Nadia's closet find is a little striped cat who cuddles so well and purrs so loudly, it drowns out scary, unhappy thoughts and shuts out worrisome gossip. For almost 17 years I had my own little magic cat, Thelma, who helped me out in much the same way. So, I figure if a woman probably older than Ms. Plum, like me, can enjoy the book, then so will the target audience of 2nd-4th graders!