Monday, November 2, 2009

Ivy and Bean, by Annie Barrows - a fantastic series for kids new to chapter books (ages 7 - 9)

I love books that combine laugh-out-loud moments with the ah-ah moment  "that could really happen to me!"  Ivy and Bean is one of my favorite series for 1st - 3rd graders - I love these two friends who are so goofy and full of mischief, and yet remind me of all the things I almost did!
Ivy and Bean (Book 1)
by Annie Barrows
illustrated by Sophie Blackall
CA: Chronicle Books, 2006
ages 7 - 9
"Before Bean met Ivy, she didn't like her. Bean's mother was always saying that Bean should try playing with the new girl across the street.  But Bean didn't want to."  So begins this unlikely friendship.  Bean is loud.  She's spunky and goofy.  Ivy is quiet and always thinking of plans.  But Ivy is also full of surprises.  She's spending all of her time learning how to be a witch and make spells.  These two find out that they make a great pair, in part because they like getting into mischief and playing tricks (especially on Bean's utterly annoying big sister Nancy).  But also, they are such good friends precisely because they're so different.  As Annie Barrows says on her Ivy and Bean website, "For Ivy and Bean, their differences mean that they have more fun together than they could ever have separately. It also means that, together, they do more wacky things than any one kid could ever dream up."  And the wacky pranks will certainly get your kids laughing.  I can't give away all the laughs, but they involve pink wiggling worms, plenty of gooey mud, and Nancy dancing in a fit of rage.

If you're a fan of the series, you'll be excited that Ivy and Bean: Doomed to Dance has just been published.  The two friends really get themselves in a fix when they beg to take ballet lessons - but do they really know what they're signing up for?
Ivy and Bean - Doomed to Dance (Book 6)
by Annie Barrows
illustrated by Sophie Blackall
CA: Chronicle Books, 2009
ages 7 - 9
Don't we all know kids who have begged, and I mean begged, for something?  A puppy? a new toy? a glittering pair of shoes?  Well, Ivy and Bean have seen amazing pictures of ballet dancers and they're sure that it's the perfect thing for them.  Giselle kicks her pointed toe so fiercely toward the duke that she's surely going to snap his head off.  And the Wilis get to dance with these cool long flowing finger nails, as they dance the duke to death!  What kid wouldn't want to do that?!  So Ivy and Bean beg, and beg, and beg with wobbly lower lips to take ballet class.  They promise that it will be different than ice skating or softball.  And they promise: no quitting.  And NO complaining.  But that's before they know ... how ballet classes really are.  Especially when you get assigned the roles of the squid in the final performance.

We just went to a wonderful reading at our local bookstore, Mrs. Dalloway's in Berkeley, with Annie Barrows.  If you have a chance to see her or invite her to your school, do so.  She is wonderful reading her books aloud to kids and talking to them about writing. She makes them laugh, she makes them hang on her every word, she tortures them so they want to find out what happens next to Ivy and Bean!  She has a very fun web site you'll enjoy if you're a fan.  On the Chronicle Books website, you can hear her read aloud from her books.

It's an amazing thing when your children move from reading just a few sentences on each page to reading chapter books.  But you need to find the right type of chapter book: they still need lots of pictures to keep the movie playing in their minds, they need humor and relationships to keep them going, and the vocabulary can't be too challenging.  Ivy and Bean fills a perfect spot in children's literature: between longer Early Readers like Mercy Watson and full chapter books like Ramona the Pest. 

Want a taste? Check out this video or go over to Google Books and read the first three chapters!

The review copy of these books came from one of my local bookstores, Mrs. Dalloway's in Berkeley. Stop by your local bookstores to check out their selection. You can also find them at your local public library

These books are available online at Amazon. If you make a purchase by clicking through to Amazon, Great Kid Books receives a small percentage, which will be used to buy more books to review. Thank you for your support!

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