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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ivy+Bean

Ivy+Bean Ivy and bean chapter books review saffron tree  Annie Barrows Sophie Blackall
Ivy + Bean
by Annie Barrows
illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Ages 4-8

There's something about unlikely alliances leading to lasting friendships that appeal to the young and old alike.

Ivy + Bean is one such chapter book series where we not only meet the two young girls with diametrically opposite personalities, but, we learn that by recognizing and embracing the seemingly obvious differences we open ourselves up to adventurous moments and beautiful friendships.

Ivy is the quiet sort who sits on her front steps with a book. Nevermind if that book happens to be on witchcraft. Bean is not a stereotypical girl her age. She could be considered a wild child, defiant and difficult, always up to something.

Bean has an older sister she doesn't like. Not because the said older sister is necessarily evil, but, Bean seems to think so.

And, Ivy, the lonesome girl across the street, who fancies herself a practicing witch, is certainly not Bean's "type", even though her mom is pushing for this friendship.

As the author says in her Ivy and Bean website, "...people with great ideas need people who can put those ideas into action. For Ivy and Bean, their differences mean that they have more fun together than they could ever have separately. It also means that, together, they do more wacky things than any one kid could ever dream up. The Ivy and Bean books are about the adventures—and disasters—created by this unlikely team."

In Book 1, we learn about the circumstances that lead to the forging of their reluctant yet inevitable friendship. Naturally, Bean believes looking the part of a witch is as important as knowing to cast the spells, and proceeds to give Ivy the necessary make-over. Events surrounding their first meeting, leading up to their plan to cast a dancing spell to cure the bossiness of Bean's sister, makes for a funny and quick read in the first book of the series.

There are over half a dozen books in this series. We've read the first three and my five year old daughter likes them. Characters perhaps aren't necessarily richly developed to etch them in our minds, but, through their interactions and escapades, we learn more about the girls' likes and dislikes and how they see the world around them.

The simple black and white illustrations serve as a teaser, much like in many chapter books, where transitional readers not only enjoy matching the illustration with the events unfolding on that page in text, but also in deriving/defining/refining the characters' personalities depicted therein, chuckling, even rolling, with laughter as they read on.

The books are a quick read, packed with fast-unfolding events that sometimes border on the outrageous, keeping the young readers engaged. While mischief and mayhem invariably abound, their guileless moxie, not to mention their independence and imagination (despite the inclination to daredevilry), is sure to warm the hearts.

[This post written for Saffron Tree]

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