Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Review: Ivy + Bean: No News is Good News by Annie Barrows (Cybils Nominee)

Ivy + Bean: No News is Good News. by Annie Barrows. November 2, 2011. Chronicle Books. 128 pages. ISBN: 9780811866934

The latest thing at Ivy and Bean’s school is wax. Specifically, the girls covet the red wax that comes with Belldeloon cheese. The cheese isn’t very good, but the wax can be used to make all sorts of cool things, from animals to fake boogers. Since neither Ivy’s parents nor Bean’s parents will buy the cheese, the girls decide to make the money themselves. First, they try selling potions, but that quickly fails. Then they ask about helping out around the house, but Bean’s dad refuses to let them near the hose, the lawn mower, or the vacuum cleaner. He does have one good idea, though. When he was a kid, he wrote a newspaper about events in his neighborhood, and people paid him before they even received the paper! Ivy and Bean can’t imagine an easier way to get their hands on some cash, and they go all around the neighborhood collecting subscriptions. They buy the cheese right away, but when Bean’s dad realizes they have no intention of actually providing the newspaper, he takes it away, requiring them to deliver the news before they can have their precious wax.

In this book, as in the other of the series, Annie Barrows demonstrates a keen understanding of the seven-year-old mind. Longing for cheese wax, playing a game called Eraser Valley, referring to their neighbors by their own made-up names - these are things that real seven-year-olds do, and Barrows makes them fun - and funny - to read about. I think what I enjoyed the most about this particular book is the time the girls spend first visiting and then spying on their neighbors. Their interactions with Jake the Teenager made me laugh out loud, and I wondered why more chapter book authors don’t include teen characters. I also enjoyed the fact that Kalia’s parents are both named Jean, and that the girls notice this and consider it an important piece of information. I also loved reading about them spying through their neighbors’ windows. Not many kids have the nerve to do that, but I know they all think about it! I also love that Barrows didn’t try to teach us a lesson about the silliness of wanting cheese wax. The girls are as happy to have it in the end as they would have been at the beginning, just as real seven-year-olds would be.

Ivy and Bean are my favorite set of fictional best friends. I love that their friendship remains strong from book to book and is never plagued by the cattiness and backstabbing found in so many other children’s fiction about female friendships. Barrows does a wonderful job of staying within the mindset of a child, no matter what happens, and that makes the series stand out as special.

I borrowed Ivy + Bean: No News is Good News from my local public library. 

For more about this book, visit Goodreads and Worldcat

NOTE: This book was nominated by zackids 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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