I freely admit it: I adore children's books. Many of them are better-written and more entertaining than the adult bestsellers. Sometimes I joke that I became a teacher just so I could get to read Eric Carle and Anna Dewdney every day. So when I found out that there was a new Ivy + Bean book just published this week, I literally squealed for joy. (Don't worry; I don't think anyone heard.)
If you have a first- or second-grader in the house, you probably already know all about Ivy + Bean, in which case, you and your child are squealing for joy, too. If you're not familiar with this series, that's awesome, because the only thing better than reading a terrific kids' book is introducing other parents to that terrific kids' book and watching the happiness carry on.
The series, written by Annie Barrows and illustrated by Sophie Blackall, debuted in 2006 with the first book, Ivy & Bean. It follows a pair of 7-year-old girls (who also happen to be neighbors), bookish Ivy and chaos-loving Bean, who dislike each other at first, but who become allies when Bean realizes Ivy might be able to help play a prank on her mean older sister.
This new release, Ivy + Bean: One Big Happy Family ($15, Chronicle), is the 11th book in the series, and the first one since 2013, so this comes as long-awaited news for young readers (and their parents) who've been hoping to read more I+B adventures. Why are these literary besties so popular? Here are just a few of the reasons:
They Show That Friends Don't Have To Be Exactly Alike
At first glance, you'd never expect these two girls to tolerate each other, much less become best friends. But, as author Barrows explained on her page, "[S]ometimes opposites can become the best of friends because they're opposites. ...For Ivy and Bean, their differences mean that they have more fun together than they could ever have separately."
You Already Love The Author
Does Annie Barrows' name sound familiar? That's because she's a best-selling adult novelist, too. With her aunt Mary Ann Shaffer, Barrows wrote The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and as a solo author, followed up with The Truth According to Us.
They Celebrate Exploration
Ivy and Bean aren't your sit-around-and-play-video-game types. They go out and about their neighborhood of Pancake Court and look for adventure. They dig for dinosaur bones. They write a neighborhood newspaper. They solve mysteries. When Bean's older sister, Nancy, goes to day camp over spring break (a privilege for bigger kids, as she happily points out to Bean), the best friends don't mope — they just make a camp of their own. In this hyper-cautious era, it's refreshing to see books that encourage girls to take a few risks.
They Get Messy
Girl power isn't always neat and clean, and the Ivy + Bean books rejoice in that fact. Their attempt to be "super-duperly good" in Ivy + Bean: Born to Be Bad leaves them a soggy, muddy mess. The seventh book, Ivy + Bean: What's the Big Idea?, is all about their attempts to solve global warming for their science fair project. Fill in your own conclusions. (Hint: It involves ice cubes.)
They Help Kids Love Reading
Got a reluctant reader? Ivy and Bean might just ignite their love of books. The series' Amazon reviews are packed with raves from moms who talk about their kids falling in love with the characters, rushing home to dive into the next book, and becoming avid readers. One reviewer wrote that she bought a boxed set of the series for her daughter for Christmas, and the delighted girl immediately sat down and read the whole thing. How many other book characters can keep a house quiet on December 25?
The New Book Promises Even More Fun
In Ivy + Bean: One Big Happy Family, the girls face a new dilemma: Ivy worries that she's doomed to become the stereotypical spoiled only child. She debates giving away her clothes and toys to prove her generosity, but rejects that option in favor of a better idea: borrowing a baby sister. I can't wait to find out how that works out, but knowing this irrepressible pair, it's sure to end in comic disaster.