Ivy and Bean
Illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Genre: Realistic fiction, early chapter books
AR Level: 3.2
Age Level: 6+
I’ve been trying to recommend good books to my students, only to find that most of what I’m familiar with are upper middle grade novels. I don’t know enough early chapter books. In a quest to remedy that, I’ve checked out several from the library. Ivy and Bean is one of them.
Bean is reluctant to make friends with the girl who lives across the street because she’s “a nice girl”, but when she finally meets Ivy, Bean learns that appearances can be deceiving. Rather than a prissy and proper young lady, Ivy is an aspiring witch. Together, the two girls concoct a plan to put a dancing spell on Bean’s older sister Nancy. But first they must get some worms.
Ivy and Bean is a cute little book about the beginning of friendship. Much of this book reminded me of my own childhood, especially the freedom to roam the neighborhood. Ivy and Bean’s adventure sounds like something I would have done. Barrows captures the best parts of childhood well. Her writing is simple enough for younger readers to understand, but still full of craft and imagery. The worm-digging scene is particularly vivid.
“The worms oozed and curled through the mud. Bean liked the way they were fat one second and stretched out skinny the next. She and Ivy dug deeper and deeper, until they had made a big muddy pit in the ground. It was almost two feet across, and water dribbled down the sides. Worms were squirming at the bottom of the pit, trying to get away.”
The illustrations by Sophie Blackall do a nice job enhancing the story and providing detail without overshadowing it.
This is a great book for readers who are ready for chapter books, but not necessarily ready for the content or themes of many middle grade novels. The series continues with more adventures of the two girls, but I think the stories are self-contained. The eighth book is due out this month.