Do you know a little girl who has recently graduated to reading chapter books and needs a simple story with engaging, real-life characters? Is she a nice girl (Ivy) or a fiesty, devil-may-care girl (Bean)? Then I think she will be just right for Annie Barrows’ Ivy + Bean books.
Bean and Ivy could not be more different. Bean likes making plans, practical jokes and tearing around her street motorcycle-racer style. Ivy likes dresses, sparkly headbands and reading. Ivy is nice. Bean thinks nice “is another word for boring.” (I kind of agree with her). Both of their mothers think the girls should be friends, and both of the girls think that idea is disgusting. But as fate would have it, the girls are headed towards friendship and they discover that you can never really tell what someone is all about until you hang out for a while. This little book is the first in a series of 4 (with more to come, I believe). It’s a bit light in terms of plot, but I think it’s mostly about setting up the characters and their relationship, and Barrows does this neatly and consistently, creating two kids who seem entirely belivable.
The book has a certain elegance and spare quality that I like, which comes from the clean text and Sophie Blackall’s understated black-and-white illustrations. It’s refreshing to find a book for the younger girl reader that isn’t all sparkles and shinyness and glitter. (BTW, I got a bit of a giggle over a few reader reviews on Amazon. One person objected because of the Wiccan imagery and another wrote that Bean was a poor role model for girls because she believes nice = boring and often gets into trouble. In my opinion, if you think Ivy + Bean is objectionable, you need to get out more).
The book reminds me a little of Clementine and Ruby Lu though it’s not as funny or sophisticated. I imagine a younger audience would find lots to enjoy here. Check out Sophie Blackall’s beautiful website and Annie Barrows’ website isn’t half bad either.