Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ida B Sparkles With Warmth and Whimsy


Fourth grader Ida B. Applewood, heroine of Katherine Hannigan's first novel Ida B, lives an almost perfect life. She spends her days roaming her family's farm with her trusty dog, stargazing with her father, or cuddled up with a good book. No playmates live nearby, so Ida B. shares all her amazing ideas with her family's apple trees and the brook that trickles through the farm. According to her:


Some people might stop me right there and say, "Ida B, you could wait for eternity and a day and you're not going to hear one of those trees talking to you, let alone a brook. Trees don't have mouths and they don't speak, and you might want to take yourself to the doctor's and get a very thorough check-up real soon."


And after I took a minute to give my patience and forbearance a chance to recover my mouth from the rudeness that was itching to jump out of it, I would just say this: "There's more than one way to tell each other things, and there's more than one way to listen, too. And if you've never heard a tree telling you something, then I'd say you don't really know how to listen just yet. But I'd be happy to give you a few pointers sometime" (8-9).


The contented Ida B cannot imagine anything marring her happiness, so she's shocked when the trees whisper about trouble on the horizon. It comes in the form of a diagnosis: her mother has cancer. Before Ida B knows it, her world has transformed from "just about righter than right to a million miles beyond wrong" (143). Her mother, who once sparkled with life, spends all her time sleeping. Her father, once patient and indulgent, snaps at Ida B for anything and everything, it seems. It's bad enough that her parents have become strangers, but when they inform her they will be selling off part of the farm to cover hospital bills, she's stunned. Apparently, it's not quite enough to give away Ida B's beloved trees, because her parents have another bomb to drop: She will have to attend public school. As Ida B accepts her sentence to take the "Yellow Prison of Propulsion," to the "Sacrificial Pit of Never-Ending Agony," she feels her heart twist into a "sharp, black stone that was small enough to fit into the palm of my hand. It was so hard nobody could break it and so sharp it would hurt anybody who touched it" (87). She vows to let no one - not teachers, classmates, or parents - inside.

When the new owners of the Applewoods' property starts ripping down trees to make way for a house, Ida B sees it as the ultimate betrayal. Her black heart blames the strangers who have stolen her parents' bodies. Bitter and friendless, Ida B must face the sorrows of her new life. With the help of a kind teacher and a kid who stinks at math, she might just be able to climb out of the pit of her despair. And maybe, just maybe, the trees will start talking to her again.

I'm not sure it's possible to describe the loveliness of this novel. It's a simple story told in the pitch-perfect voice of a brave young narrator. It's also a rich, moving tale that will speak to readers' hearts, however black they may be. The writing sparkles with whimsy and subtlety, making it a funny, heartwarming story you simply won't want to miss.

Grade: A


6 comments:

  1. I loved this book. I can't remember where I saw it, but the website said "If you loved TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, you will like IDA B." No book can really compare to TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD in my mind, but I did really enjoy it!

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  2. Back in my library days, I ordered this book and loved it. I thought the kids would, too, but it was seldom checked out. I never understood why. I guess young readers are on a fantasy train ride lately and finding it hard to get off.

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  3. We had this book at our Scholastic Book Fair last year- a few teachers put it on their wish lists and I saw a couple parents pick it up, but it didn't get much interest from students, who flocked to books like Eragon and Inkheart.

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  4. Maybe the story's too old-fashioned for today's kids? It does seem like sci-fi/fantasy is where it's at these days. Hopefully, the trends will swing back toward historical fiction - it's one of my favorite genres!

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  5. Okay, I'm obviously really tired. I was thinking about Hattie Big Sky when I wrote this comment. I'm surprised that more kids weren't interested in Ida B. I think Ida B. has such a great voice - almost like a grown up Junie B.

    I'm glad that kids are reading, even if they are ignoring gems like Ida B. Sci-fi/fantasy was never my favorite genre, but there are some really fun books being published in the genre. I don't blame kids for flocking to them. I just wish there was a way to broaden their horizons.

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  6. This book is really ggreat so far... i was wondering what ida b might look like if she were shown in a pic but i cant find 1!!! if amybody sees 1 then can u post the website? THANKS SOOOO MUCH!!!

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