As you may remember, this past summer Catherine and I read Ivy and Bean, the first book in this series about two girls who are skeptical of each other but are about to become friends. You may also remember that when we sat down to read, Catherine proclaimed
Aw Mom, I don’t want a chapter book.
That lasted three pages! Rather than write individual reviews, I thought I would offer a personal story about what happens when a book grabs a growing reader … and vice versa. As the quote above suggests, I needed to plant a seed to get Catherine started. I picked Ivy + Bean because it looked like a clever book. That said, I could never have predicted how she connected with the series. I had done a similar thing with other series, without these results. It is a trial and error process.
Before she returned to school we’d read Ivy and Bean and the Ghost That Had To Go, the next book in the series. When Catherine went back to school, she asked for Ivy and Bean, but the school library didn’t have any copies. Based on her enthusiasm, the librarian bought the first five books! [Thanks Mrs. G!]
When the books arrived, she immediately checked out two of them and devoured them in a matter of days. For the last week, she has asked to “stay up late” on school nights so that she could keep reading Take Care of the Babysitter (Book 4) and Bound To Be Bad (Book 5)( How could we refuse?
Ivy and Bean may both be seven years old, but they are two very different girls. When the book/series opens, we meet Bean first. She tells us immediately about the new girl across the street and how she was tired of her mom trying to make her play with the new girl. Bean had already made up her mind: she didn’t want to play with a girl who wore her robe outside. That’s Bean – quick to judge, quick to act.
What Bean didn’t know – and wouldn’t learn until Ivy helped bail her out of a practical joke gone awry – is that Ivy was studying to be a witch. She taped stars on her robe to help her practice magic spells. Bean liked the idea of magic … especially if there was a spell to get rid of her sister!
Although Bean is the more in-your-face character, Ivy holds her own in the stories, too. In Book Two, we can discern that Ivy says there is a ghost in the bathroom to cover up the fact that she can’t do cartwheels like her friends in the Gymnastics Club.
One of the great things about this series is that after you’ve read Ivy + Bean, where we meet the girls and the ensemble that makes their adventures possible, you can enjoy the rest of the books in any order. In fact, Catherine wanted to read Bound to Be Bad (B00k 5) before Take Care of the Babysitter (Book 4). Even though we haven’t yet read Book 3 (Ivy + Bean Break the Fossile Record), we thoroughly enjoyed Bad and Babysitter. We met Nancy, Bean’s older sister, in Book 1, Chapter 1. So we were well prepared for the “fallout” in Book 4 when Nancy is Bean’s babysitter for the afternoon.
These are wonderful stories for readers ready for a step up from easy readers. Tentative readers can be lured into the books because of the short chapters (7 to 10 pages) and great illustrations. The book is lightly illustrated (i.e., there aren’t illustrations on every page), but the images make you want to go back to the text to find out what’s happening. They make you ask questions you want the answer to – like why is Nancy scowling at Bean?
If I had to guess, I’d say initially, Catherine got hooked because she saw two girls who were her age. What keeps her reading, though, is the friendship. These are Ivy and Bean’s stories, but the reader is part of the group, too. This isn’t an established friendship, where there is a back story you get later. This is a brand new thing and the reader is there from the beginning of every adventure, every misstep, every success.
Last week, Catherine came running up the stairs excited and begging Bill and me to come downstairs. She had something to show us and we needed to see it NOW. She had created new Mii’s (the avatars that personalize your Wii). Can you guess who? Yep. Ivy, Bean, and Nancy. Yes, she was proud of herself for her technical savvy, but what she pointed out to us was that when she goes down to play tennis (or whatever), she can play with her friends.
I never saw it coming … but I am so tickled all the same.
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