Saturday, November 24, 2007

Ida B. . . . and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World by Katherine Hannigan

I recommend this book for: grades 3-5

Ida B. Applewood is a free spirit - she talks to the trees on her family's land and listens for their answers, sends rafts with messages downstream to see how far away they will make it, and takes long walks with her father in the evenings. Life is fairly idyllic, not even interrupted by school, as Ida B. has been homeschooled ever since kindergarten in the public school threatened to crush her spirit and her parents pulled her out. And then one day the trees whisper that trouble is coming . . . the discovery that her mother has cancer and must start chemotherapy has serious consequences on life as Ida B. knows it. Some of her trees are cut down to make way for houses to help pay for the treatments, and now -unforgivably, in her eyes - her parents have decided that Ida B. will have to go back to public school. Feeling betrayed and angry, she hardens her heart and decides that no one is getting through ever again.

I had mixed feelings about this book. Ida B. is definitely a great character, and I think many of her emotions came out realistically in the writing. A child's anger can be fierce, and certainly most 4th graders understand more about what is unfair in their own lives than they do about the affairs of adults and necessities. Even so, I found it troubling that she didn't seem to worry at all about her mother possibly dying, just about the fact that she was being made to do something she didn't want to do. Still, there are important themes here: forgiving and saying you're sorry, making the best of a bad situation, the fact that one bad teacher doesn't ruin the whole bunch, and of course the love of a family and others who care. Not a perfect 10 in my book, but still a worthwhile read.

From those who liked it better than I did . . .

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