Tweens often either love fantasy adventure to take them away from their world, or they love realistic fiction to dive into someone's life. Realistic fiction lets children explore characters' emotions from a safe vantage point, especially as tweens' own emotional rollercoaster picks up speed. One of my favorite books that I read last year was Ida B ... and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World, by Katherine Hannigan. My 10 year old read this and loved, loved, loved it. She kept saying, "Mom, you've got to read this." I read it, not knowing what to expect, and was swept away by Ida B's voice, emotions and story.
Ida B: . . . and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World
by Katherine Hannigan
NY: Greenwillow Books, 2004
ages 9 - 12
Ida B's story begins on a perfect day, "one of those days that start right and just keep heading toward perfect until you go to sleep." She is completely happy at home on her family's farm, living with her loving mother and father, being homeschooled, able to learn and play and follow her imagination. But one day, her world comes crashing down. Her mother is diagnosed with cancer. And everything starts to change, real fast.
Ida B takes refuge with the apple trees in her family's orchard. She tells the old wise tree, "I don't mean to complain and I don't want to whine, but Mama's not Mama, and Daddy's not Daddy, and I miss them, and I miss the life we used to have, and I am so lonely." But things turn from bad to worse, and Ida B's father has to sell part of the orchard she loves to a developer so they can pay for Mama's medical bills. Even worse, they cannot homeschool Ida B any longer, and she is sent to school.
As Ida B's world changes around her, her hurt turns to bitter anger and resentment. She wants to yell at her parents, "Don't you people care that everything has changed around here, and it's gone from just about righter than right to a million miles beyond wrong?" Author Katherine Hannigan captures Ida B's voice perfectly, showing us her thoughts as she goes through this terrible year. Ida B is an unforgettable character, a girl with intelligence, spirit, wit and a unique imagination. The story does not focus on Mama's illness, but develops around Ida B's reaction to these events and her emotional journey.
This would make a wonderful book to read aloud or to read in a book club. I found our copy at our local bookstore. Stop by your local bookstore to see if they have it. You can also find it at your local library or on Amazon.