Skip to main content

Ivy + Bean by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sophie Blackall, 120 pp, RL 3

The ivy + bean series of chapter books written by Annie Barrows and illustrated by Sophie Blackall debuted in 2006 and has been going strong since then, with book 10 in the series published in the fall of 2013! I have been meaning to review this series since I started this blog in 2008 and have been meaning to review this series since then, especially since, like Megan McDonald's Judy Moody series, these books are a great bridge between chapter books (like Magic Tree House and Junie B Jones) and middle grade novels. In 2010 I reviewed Annie's other book for kids, The Magic Half. I adore this book and think of and recommend often and am absolutely thrilled to hear that there will be a sequel coming soon! Annie also cowrote with her aunt, Mary Ann Shaffer, the very popular work of epistolary fiction for adults, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, which is a constant favorite with book groups.

So, who are Ivy and Bean and what is so great about them? Ivy and Bean are two seven year old girls who live on Pancake Court at the end of a cul-de-sac. Book 1 begins with a chapter titled, "No Thanks," which details Bean's (real name Beatrice Blue) reasons for not wanting to play with the new girl, Ivy. Ivy always had her nose in a book. Reading made Bean jumpy. Ivy always wore a dress and kept her long red hair in a headband. Bean had short black hair and couldn't keep a headband on her head, let alone tolerate wearing a dress. Most of all, though, Bean was sure that Ivy had "never stomped in puddles" or "smashed rocks to find gold" and most definitely had never climbed a tree and fallen out. Bean "got bored just looking at her." The first few pages of ivy + bean are so rich with description and detail, the characters cut so clearly, that it's hard not to want to know more about these two kids. Is Ivy really as bad as Bean thinks she is? Is Bean really as opinionated and stubborn as she seems to be? It takes an annoying older sister and a trick with a $20 bill gone wrong to find out.

When Bean tries to get back at fussy eleven-year-old Nancy for making her suffer through an afternoon of clothes shopping, she finds herself on the run instead. Ivy, who has been sitting on her porch in a dark bathrobe with badly drawn paper stars and moons taped to it, a gold stick in her hand, rescues Bean from a stick situation by making her close her eyes and sneak to a secret place. It turns out to be Ivy's backyard, which is not a secret as a cave, Bean thinks, but this gives Bean (and the reader) the chance to peek into Ivy's life and find out what she is really like. Turns out this quiet bookworm has a lot going on! Her room is divided into five neat sections, chalk lines on the floor separating them. There is a little area with a tiny couch and a bookshelf, another with art supplies and one section with nothing but dolls. All sorts of dolls, even a rock with a doll's dress on. And, in the center of all these dolls is a Barbie wrapped up in toilet paper. She is a mummy and Ivy is planning on building a pyramid on top of her as soon as she can figure out how.

Seeming opposites, Ivy and Bean are perfectly matched - imagination equals. This seemingly short book has so much going on in it - from a dangerous trek across four fenced backyards to a spell that can make a person dance forever that requires at least ten worms, to a plan to convert one section of Ivy's room to a potions lab - you'll be amazed. And completely entertained, of course. Add to this spectacular story Sophie Blackall's pitch perfect illustrations (especially Nancy getting worms thrown in her face) and this series is impossible not to love. Alone, these are two pretty sharp, creative minds. Together, who knows what Ivy and Bean will get up to? Actually, since I have taken so long to review this series, you have 9 more books worth of imagination and adventures with these two, and hopefully more to come!

ivy + bean 1 - 10

The ivy + bean Paper Doll Set, which can be purchased here

ivy + bean dolls made by Madame Alexander

The ivy + bean Button Factory that can be purchased here

Source: Library Book


Brenda said…
I love how even as opposites they make such great friends. Nice review.

Popular posts from this blog

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!


How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers

How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers remains the most read post on my blog since I wrote it in 2012. Because of this, I have cleaned up this post, tightened the writing and added in any pertinent information that has come about since it originally ran. When I first started in August of 2008, I was scrambling for content, finding my purpose and my voice and not always doing my best writing. How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers was one of the first articles I wrote and, as a bookseller and a book reviewer, and now as an elementary school librarian where I have gone from working with kids reading well beyond their grade level to kids reading well below, this philosophy remains my organizing principle and central focus when reading and recommending books to parents and children. 

In the interest of my mission and the attention this article continues to receive, I have updated and expanded this article and included a guide to using …

POP-UP: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, paper engineering by Ruth Wickings, illustrations by Frances Castle RL: All ages

POP-UP:  Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book with paper engineering by Ruth Wickings and illustrations by Frances Castle is THE COOLEST BOOK EVER!!!  I know that I haven't dedicated much time to pop-up books here, but they have always held a special place in my heart, and the phrase "paper engineering" is a favorite of mine. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I did go through a paper engineering phase when I was ten or so. I would sneak off to the back of the classroom during independent work periods and go to town on the construction paper and glue and make these little free-standing dioramas. A huge fan of The Muppet Show (the original), I reconstructed the all-baby orchestra from an episode, drawing and coloring each baby and his/her instrument then gluing them onto a 3D orchestra section I had crafted out of brown construction paper.  I also made a 3D version of Snidely Whiplash throwing Nell off a cliff with Dudley Do-Right wa…