Saturday, April 18, 2015


Annie Barrows
Chronicle, 2006  113 pgs.
Grades 2-4
Ivy+Bean Series #1

Enter the world of Ivy and Bean and be prepared for fun!  Ivy and Bean are neighbors in a suburban American town.  Both of their mothers encourage them to play with the other, but they both dismiss the suggestion.  Because she always wears dresses, has perfect hair, and is constantly reading, Bean is convinced that Ivy is boring.  While playing a trick on her horrible older sister, Nancy, Bean gets into a jam.  Ivy saves her and the two become best friends.  They have more in common than Bean thought possible.  Ivy is training to be a witch and has a costume with face-paint and a book of magic spells to prove it.  The new friends concoct a scheme to get Bean out of trouble and further torture Bean's sister that involves slinking around the neighbor's yards and spying.  The plan blows up in their faces, but no matter.  A friendship is formed and new adventures await.  Nine more books follow in the series, which do not need to be read in order and promise more simple fun and mayhem.

Ivy and Bean bring back that nostalgic American ideal of childhood.  Playing at friend's houses, running around the neighborhood, long and unstructured afternoons and weekends, mothers at home who fix snacks.  Reading these books are a comforting trip back in time and feel fresh out of a Norman Rockwell painting.  Children instinctively love the freedom and simplicity of the lives of Ivy and Bean and will read this comforting and humorous chapter-book series with gusto.  The main order of the day is generally sister torture, but Ivy and Bean also manage to create science experiments, manage their own summer camp in the park, and solve mysteries in the series.  Admittingly, I've read some of the series before.  I re-read a few of the titles to prepare for an upcoming "Ivy and Bean Celebration" at my library for the children on spring break.  I enjoyed the series just as much the second time around and found myself laughing out-loud as I read.  Kids will also find the hi-jinx hilarious and eat these books up, all while longing to be part of the fun.  Barrows nails the humor for this audience and thinks like a child.  Perfect for children just starting chapters, the vocabulary is spot-on, the margins are wide, and the font is large.  Humorous pencil illustrations (by Sophie Blackall) appear on almost every page.  Even though the main characters are both girls, boys will like this series as well.  A popular series of books in my library for almost ten years, Ivy and Bean will be around for many years to come.

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