Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Review: Ivy + Bean Make the Rules by Annie Barrows (Cybils Nominee)

Ivy + Bean Make the Rules. by Annie Barrows. September 5, 2012. Chronicle Books. 127 pages. ISBN: 9781452102955

Bean’s sister, Nancy, gets to spend her Spring Break at Girl Power 4-Ever Camp, but the only camp Ivy and Bean are old enough to attend is Puppet Fun, which they are decidedly not interested in. Thankfully, the girls’ moms have given them permission to play at Monkey Park on their own, which gives them the perfect opportunity to start their own camp. Camp Flaming Arrow has crafts and nature study, just like Girl Power 4-Ever, but it also has lots of activities never before seen at any camp, including Heimlich Maneuver and The Roman Army. When Ivy and Bean make the rules, unexpected things happen, but everyone also has a lot of fun.

This ninth book about Ivy and Bean is one of Barrows’s best. I always say that the best children’s books are the ones that truly get inside a child’s mind and look at the world from that child’s point of view. By allowing the girls to play in the park without adult supervision, Barrows provides a wonderful opportunity to tell stories of their independent play and where their imaginations take them. It seems that so much of kids’ free time is scheduled and monitored today. This book really highlights that important need for kids to play without adult involvement, so they can learn to negotiate rules and social situations.

Aside from the messages the story sends about the importance of play, it’s also just a really entertaining book with the signature sense of humor readers associate with the series. One of my favorite descriptions in the entire book is the passage where Bean looks at Monkey Park and assesses its assets and drawbacks.

Bean sighed inside herself and turned to look at Monkey Park. Its real name was Mrs. Taylor Hopper Ansuch Memorial Park, but everybody called it Monkey Park because it had a fountain with a statue of a smiling monkey in the middle. The monkey was dressed in a shiny blue suit, and he held a big, shiny platter of oranges and grapes. The fountain water spurted out of his hat. Besides, the fountain, Monkey Park had one big flat field and one not-so-flat field and a playground filled with babies. There were some trees and some bushes and some flowers.

Kids played soccer at Monkey Park. Families had picnics there. Babies crawled up the play structure. Nothing exciting had ever happened in Monkey Park. Going to Monkey Park was the opposite of going to Girl Power 4-Ever Camp. (pp.16-17)

Though these paragraphs are written in the third person, the point of view is clearly Bean’s, and everything she notices about the park becomes the reader’s impression of the park as well.

My other favorite part of this book is the set of rules Ivy and Bean present to their campers.
  • “You can only have as much fun as you are willing to get hurt.”
  • “Live and learn.”
  • “The counselor is always right.”
  • “If you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em.”
  • “Don’t get mad, get even.” (pp.58-59)
I also laughed out loud when Franny, a new friend, says, “I don’t think this is a real camp.” Seeing other kids react to Ivy and Bean’s hijinks just makes them that much more fun.

Ivy and Bean fans will be thrilled by this latest addition to the series, and I’m sure they’ll immediately begin counting down to the tenth book, which, according to Chronicle Books Rights Guide 2012 , is due out in Fall 2013, and will involve some amateur sleuthing!

I borrowed Ivy + Bean Make the Rules from my local public library.

For more about this book, visit Goodreads and Worldcat

NOTE: This book was nominated by Melissa @ Book Nut for the 2012 Cybils Awards in the Easy Reader/Early Chapter Book category. I am a first-round panelist in this category, but this review reflects my opinions only, not those of any other panelist, or the panel as a whole. Thanks! 

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