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Saturday, March 06, 2010

Zelda and Ivy

kid lit children's book review zelda and ivy
Zelda and Ivy
by Laura McGee Kvasnosky

Ages 4-8

The thrill Ana feels when we come home with a large tote full of books from the library is hard to miss - some of them bear her name on the slip thanks to holds we place, and some of them are just on-a-whim pick by Ana making me wonder if I should've screened better before bringing them home...

Anyway, Zelda and Ivy is one of the on-a-whim picks. And I like it! So does Ana. Not having grown up with sisters, the dynamics always intrigues me. Apparently, it is interesting to Ana as well.

Zelda, the older (fox) sister is wily, spunky, and bossy. Ivy, the younger, plays along, suitably gullible and charmingly indulgent. The book has three short stories, episodes so-to-speak, in the life of the sisters.

First episode starts off with Zelda egging Ivy on to progressively difficult tricks on the swing, declaring, "Behold, The Fabulous Ivy on the Flying Trapeze", until Ivy could barely hang on and falls off the swing. As she starts to cry, Zelda's comforting, "Don't worry, I have trouble with that trick too" rings tender and sweet, despite our knowledge that Zelda orchestrated the fall in the first place.

The second episode struck a distinct chord with me especially as Zelda decides to make-over Ivy's fluffy tail. Just substitute the tail with luxurious long hair and this could be two little girls, one taking charge of the other's locks, styling and cutting on a whim, just because she can. No malice. Just something to do, as it can be done. Of course, Zelda carries on with the cutting and sprucing up of Ivy's tail, all the while leaving the promise of getting hers done by Ivy hanging, but never really committing to anything, until, at the end, when Ivy asks, "Shall I doozy up your tail?", she quickly swishes her tail away with, "Maybe some other time." Just brilliant.

The last episode was the warmest of all. Zelda points to crayon dust from Ivy's coloring and states, "Magic fairy dust. If you put this under your pillow and dream of your wish, it will come true.", with the confidence of authority that older siblings are blessed with.

Just when we think Zelda has taken it a bit too far, feeling a tad bit sorry for Ivy, we find out that Ivy wishes for a baton exactly like Zelda's. "I will dream of twirling and marching, just like you", Ivy drips with admiration, and goes to sleep. But, Zelda can't sleep. She agonizes over Ivy's wish, in her own way, and does the only thing a loving older sister can do: places her very own baton under Ivy's pillow!

Imagine Ivy's thrill to find her magic fairy dust dream-wish come true next morning! Of course, Ivy being a shrewd little girl soon realizes what Zelda has done, but not one to let on, she offers to share her baton with Zelda, feeling generous. "Thanks", says Zelda, "I am the oldest, so I will go first", thus staking her claim to her baton given away in a moment of weakness.

Surely the age gap between the siblings influence the relationship dynamics, and it seems like Zelda cannot be that much older than Ivy. Zelda's seeming leadership and Ivy's accommodating role of a vassal are so perfectly captured in these three charming episodes.

It took a while for Ana, soon-to-be-five, to actually read the nuances in the relationship. She seemed worried that Zelda is tricking Ivy about magic fairy dust. She didn't understand why Zelda had to give up her baton to Ivy. But, after a few readings and a few discussion based on her dynamics with Oggie, Ana began to see...

The way she grabs an uninteresting toy away from Oggie simply because he loves it so... the way she screams at him and watches him convulse with sobs and then hugs and kisses him tenderly trying to explain to her bewildered brother that she was just teasing him... the way she sits on his fire truck egging him on to push her when all he wants is to ride it himself... all of this seals the bond, even if it seems otherwise.

The illustrations complement the narration well. Simple lines and bright colors make them eye-catching, while tight frames focus our attention on the action. Ana pored over the objects in the girls' room, their yard (especially the birdbath in the front yard and the tree swing in the back), their bunk beds, even the little dolly that seemed like a miniature Ivy lying on Ivy's bed.

There are half a dozen books in the series as far as I have looked, maybe more. We have been working our way through a couple, in no particular order - The Boy Next Door and One Christmas - and it still comes through as quite charming.

Any time I discover a wonderful author or illustrator, I've leaned towards checking out more of their books. So, I go through phases with Ana. It helps in some ways, especially if the author/illustrator we are focusing on has distinct and easily identifiable style. For instance, we went through Alison Jay phase a couple of years ago after I Took A Moon For A Walk - trying to stick with age appropriate reads so Ana doesn't lose interest. We went through Lois Ehlert (after Color Zoo), Leo Lionni (after A Color of his Own), Wallace Edwards (after Alphabeasts)...

The trick for me is to space them out close enough, yet not back-to-back. And then make a note of the ones that were a huge hit and circle back to it later. Right now, Ana is fascinated by the refreshing presentation of The Emperor's New Clothes by Marcus Sedgwick/Alison Jay. (More on this in a separate post).

For now, Ana enjoys "reading" Zelda and Ivy, the first book, to me at least a few nights a week; but only after I've read the promised two chapters of Ivy and Bean for the night. Yes, in addition to The Magic Treehouse series, and the Rainbow Magic series, we have embarked on a few more series, the most appealing among them being Ivy and Bean so far, also brought home from the library on a whim.

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At 11:14 PM, Blogger Playing by the book said...

I shall have to get hold of some of the books in this series - I think my two girls would enjoy them and the depiction of sisterhood! Another series of books on sisterhood that my eldest already adores is the "My naughty little sister" book - highly recommended!


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