I loved my neighborhood friends growing up. With the exception of one or two families, I wasn’t really close to that many of them, but that never mattered when it came to baseball or tag. On a long Seattle summer night, when the light stayed up as late as your mom let you, neighborhood friends were always there and ready to play. One of our favorites (and this admittedly sounds ridiculous in 2011) was German Crossing. Yes, one side of the road was East Germany and one was West. You had to cross from one to the other (presumably from East to West although the details of the game escape me) without being tagged by the guard with the flashlight, who wasn’t allowed to stray far from his/her post. You could sneak your friends out of jail by sneaking over to the jail near the guard and tagging them. Hours and hours and even nights and nights were spent at this game, sneaking through the neighbors yards, hiding in their bushes, and trying to stay out of their sight if they were one of those “adult” houses with no kids in the game who may or may not understand people sneaking through their yard.
Reading Ivy and Bean–the at first reluctant to be friends neighbors–reminded me of that game. But when they finally cross the street and meet, the tomboyishly adventurous Bean and the imaginative bookworm Ivy become fast friends and hilarity ensues. There’s even some sneaking around in neighbors’ yards. I want to thank my niece because without her recommendation of these books, I might never have found them!
Title: Ivy and Bean
Author: Annie Barrows
Illustrator: Sophie Blackall
Genre: Early Chapter Book
Age: K – third grade
Follow-up with the kids: This is the kind of level for kids who are really starting to read on their own. This is a great time to engage them in conversations about books so they get used to thinking about their reading and talking about it while they still have memories of cuddling up with picture books with their family. Ask your daughter (it is probably a daughter reading this book as boys tend to prefer books with boy characters–the same is not necessarily true for girls) if she is more like Ivy or more like Bean. Or does she have elements of both? What about her friends? Getting kids to think about their reading and to relate their reading to their own lives, is an important first step to higher level reading comprehension. And also a great step towards really enjoying books!