Thursday, July 07, 2011
Book Review: Ivy and Bean, by Annie Barrows (Chronicle Books, 2007)
Recommended for ages 6-9
This first book in the very popular Ivy and Bean series kicks off with two little girls who don't like one another at first. Bean is a tomboy who doesn't really like to read, wants to be a bike racer, and doesn't get along with her older sister. Ivy is a bookish only child who wears dresses. Although Bean's mother tries to get her to play with Ivy, Bean refuses.
One day, circumstances throw them together. Bean needs to escape punishment for trying to play a trick on her sister, Nancy, and Ivy offers her a place to hide. Ivy reveals that she's studying to be a witch and was trying to practice a spell that would cause the affected person to dance, nonstop - and that she was going to cast on Bean. Rather than be offended, Bean is impressed - Ivy clearly isn't the goody-goody Bean thought she was. The new friends then decide to cast the spell on Nancy.
The girls' adventures that day seal their friendship; as Ivy's mom brings her home for the night, they agree to meet tomorrow... and the day after that.
I was surprised that many moms made issue of the use of witchcraft in the book when I read reviews on Goodreads. Has no one ever dressed up and pretended to be a witch at some point in their lives? She wasn't conjuring a demon, she was going to make someone wriggle like a worm. Maybe I'm too laid back, but I didn't see the reason for the concern.
The book is perfect for its audience - the main characters are seven year-old girls, the book is about being best friends, and Sophie's Blackall's adorable illustrations adorn much of the book. The prose is easy to read and the girls are each interesting enough to keep young readers wanting to read more. The book was an ALA Notable Book in 2007 and has spawned a popular series of books about the two friends and their adventures.
Author Annie Barrows' Ivy and Bean section of her website is just as adorable as her books and just as user-friendly. The site features links to information about the author and illustrator, information about the publisher and designer and the series; Ivy and Bean themselves offer craft ideas and a babysitter test for kids to run past potential babysitters.