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

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