Ivy + Bean: 9 Books of Awesome

December 4, 2012

This post should have been written months ago. For months I’ve been thinking about how much I love Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows, about how consistently hilarious all the books are, and about how Sophie Blackall could illustrate anything and I’d love it (she has taken this to heart and illustrated Craig’s List ads for us).

At the beginning of September I received a review copy of Ivy and Bean: Make the Rules, which is book 9 in the series. Here’s the deal: I was confusing this series with something else. I can’t figure out what I was thinking of, but for some reason I thought this was a series of insipid frothy “we hate boys” girlishness. I’M SORRY. I was completely wrong.

I gave the book to Zuzu. I said, “Here, you’ll like this,” because she’s going through a phase where she picks way-out-of-her-age-range chapter books at the library, based solely on girls and sparkles on the cover, and then carries them around possessively and pretends to read them.

She wanted me to read her this one. This was when I couldn’t really walk, so I figured I might as well read it, since I was stuck on the couch anyway.

Ivy and Bean Make the Rules starts off with Bean’s older sister Nancy getting ready to go to Girl Power 4-Ever Camp, which, of course, totally cemented my wrong preconceived notion that this was a book about lip gloss and how much fun it is.

But then. Well. Something happened. The book started to get funny. Really funny. Then my boys came home from school, and we all squished onto the couch and read the whole darn book, stopping occasionally to laugh really, really hard. See, what happens is, Ivy and Bean make their own camp, Camp Flaming Arrow, which is loosely based on the informational sheet about Girl Power 4-Ever Camp that Bean’s mom pulled out of her purse, and by the time we got to the chapter where they practice first aid, and one of their campers, being a doctor, says, “One-twelve over five in the plexercarpaloo,” we were smitten. In love. We wanted way more Ivy and Bean.

And so, now, every time we go to the library I grab all of the available Ivy and Bean books like I’m getting the last Tickle Me Elmo on the day after Thanksgiving. And then we read them over and over.

And this morning, something happened that made me realize I just had to write this post already. Zuzu, Ramona, and I walked to our local bookstore to get gift certificates for teachers, and right after we went in, Zuzu started screaming, and she grabbed my arm and pulled me to the back of the store, pointed at the Ivy and Bean paper dolls, and said, screamingly, ‘I NEED TO HAVE THAT.” (And then I did a terrible thing: I bought them, and now won’t let her have them until Christmas.)

If something with book characters on it makes my kid SCREAM with excitement, like she’s seeing whatever boy band people are screaming about these days, well, then, I need to tell you about it.

One last word of book recommendation love from me: there need to be more series like this. I can’t think of any chapter book series besides Clementine and Ivy and Bean that thoroughly captivated all of my kids, from the 2-year-old to the 9-year-old. It’s not an easy thing to do. And Clementine and Ivy and Bean are amazing, amazing books. And luckily for us there are five Clementine books and nine Ivy and Beans, so just reading and rereading those should take us a while.

(There are other series like Invisible Inkling that the boys and I love so much, and I realize this is a RIDICULOUS thing I am asking for: a chapter book that will entertain humans from age 2 through adult. I just get all excited about the ones that do.)



Children’s Book of the Week: Invisible Inkling

September 7, 2011

Invisible Inkling by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Harry Bliss

As someone with four kids between 1 and 8, it’s really, really hard to find a bedtime chapter book that pleases everyone. There really aren’t that many books out there that are simple enough to be understood by all, but complex and interesting enough so that when Dave reads it he doesn’t start sighing meaningfully in my direction. There should probably be pictures. There shouldn’t be a love interest. Funny books are a plus, but adventure works too.

Dick King-Smith has fit this pretty well for us, but honestly, I don’t love all his books. Beverly Cleary works, of course. (I’m just coming up with some other books, right now, in case others are also in this predicament.)  We recently read and LOVED Invisible Inkling. It’s perfect for our bedtime reading problem: exciting, funny, unpredictable, and with great illustrations (Harry Bliss!).

Hank (who refers to himself by his last name, Wolowitz — so you already know it’s funny) finds an invisible animal called a bandapat. The bandapat, Inkling, comes along just as Wolowitz is missing his best friend who moved away, and also as Wolowitz is dealing with an awful bully. Inkling helps him because Wolowitz saved him from a marauding French bulldog named Rootbeer. In the world of bandapats, Inkling must stick around to repay the debt, the Hetsnickle. This should all be enough for you. Wolowitz + Rootbeer + bandapat + Hetsnickle = Fun! Really. It could have no plot at all and I’d be tempted to read a book that revolved around those four words.

The other great thing about Invisible Inkling is the treatment of the bully situation. The grownups in Wolowitz’s life keep trying to tell him that he should empathize with his bully, he should be peaceful toward his bully, he should understand his bully’s problems, he should be friends with his bully. Inkling tells him to bite the bully on the ankle. Guess who’s right? Inkling. Sometimes you’ve just got to bite your bully on the ankle.