Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Faith, Hope and Ivy June

Biblio Bits Faith, Hope, and Ivy June by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Random House, 2009 (ISBN 9780739380536)
Reading Level/Interest Age 10-13
Genre Realistic fiction

Plot Summary
Set in Kentucky, this book is about a friendship that develops between two girls who participate in a school exchange program. Ivy June is from a rural, mountain community where folks are used to living on the edge of poverty. Ivy June lives with her grandparents in a small cabin without indoor plumbing, but her parents and siblings are just down the "holler." Catherine is from Lexington and attends a local private school for girls. Her family lives in a large home (with multiple bathrooms) and they even have a household helper. Both girls are instructed to keep a journal of their experiences during the two weeks they spend with their host family (and the two weeks that they host) as well as being cautioned against making preconceived judgments about what they may encounter. The girls discover that they share certain commonalities but have some significant differences in their circumstances. Their friendship develops slowly, through some tricky situations at both homes, and ultimately they each find out a little about themselves and the world through the experience.

Critical Evaluation
This book explores some fundamental themes for tweens: friendship, self-discovery and reflection, family issues, and emotional development. The narrative is interspersed with the girls' journal entries, which makes their individual and unique voices shine through the text. This also adds a level of transparency, as we discover their private thoughts and feelings about the experiences they are having. The pace really picks up towards the end of the book when Catherine is living with Ivy June's family, and Ivy June's grandfather is trapped in a mining accident; the suspense and emotional content is quite strong and takes the friendship to a new level. Naylor does a nice job at taking this story beyond cliches to a realistic, believable, and engaging place.

Reader's Annotation
The great cover drew me to this book, depicting two girls struggling with a suitcase; in this case, the cover really does have a lot to do with what's inside.

Author Information
Phyllis Reynolds Naylor is very prolific writer with over 135 published works to her name. She has authored the popular Alice series, the Boy/Girl battle series, and the Newbery Award-winning Shiloh. According to the author information on the jacket of this book, Naylor's interest in the small mountain communities in West Virginia and Kentucky was kindled during a road trip with her husband. She is the mother of two sons and a grandmother. Naylor currently resides in Maryland. (Author biography notes from the book jacket on Faith, Hope, and Ivy June.)

Challenge issues

Booktalking Ideas
Friendship despite different circumstances is the strongest theme here, with many associated themes like prejudice and town vs. country. Also, this could fit into a booktalk with other books that have a journaling component.

Curriculum Ties
Social issues like poverty and prejudice would be good ones to tie in. But, as mentioned above, I see the best potential here for a mother/daughter book group reading choice.

Why this book?
The audio book's cover captured my attention as I was about to shelve it, and I decided to check it out. I was glad I did. It touches on many themes that are current for tweens: exploring and testing one's own limits, family and social issues, the ups and downs of friendships, and a little bit of boy/girl interaction thrown in in a very realistic way.


Rockport Public Library owns?

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