Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ivy + Bean: What's the Big Idea?

In the seventh book in the series, second-graders Ivy and Bean take on a pretty big challenge: saving the world from global warming. After Ms. Aruba-Tate's class hears a report by fifth graders on the subject, they take the problem to heart. Their wise teacher channels their concerns into a project for the science fair. Their mission? To cool down the Earth. Bean and Ivy team up, but each new idea they come up with gets squashed. Their decision to toss ice cubes into the sky is ridiculed by Bean's older sister and her snobby friend. They bind their wrists so that animals will have a better chance of survival only to find themselves at the mercy of a small child who forces them to play Bad Orphanage. They attempt to pound energy out of rice and are again mocked for their efforts. Then, while watching an ant colony, the girls finally get their big idea.

On the night of the science fair, Ivy and Bean show their parents the other projects, the funniest of which is classmate Vanessa's. She has her siblings hold their breath 1 minute 15 times a day in an effort to cut down on carbon dioxide. Then it's time for Ivy and Bean's project. With the help of Ms. Aruba-Tate, the girls shepherd all the parents outside and have them stretch out on blankets under the starry night sky. The parents grumble at first but gradually unwind as they experience nature. Not clear what this has to do with global warming? Let Bean and Ivy explain. "We wanted you all to feel happy in nature." (Ivy) "So you would care about global warming." (Bean)

Oh, I see. Well, truthfully, I don't. But that one of the strengths of this series. Author Annie Barrows has an unerring instinct for getting inside a second-grader's mind. From Ivy and Bean's perspective, anything is possible. So go outside and throw some ice cubes into the sky. It can't hurt, and, who knows, it just may do some good!

Ivy + Bean: What's the Big Idea?
by Annie Barrows
illustrations by Sophie Blackall
Chronicle, 128 pp.
Published: November 2010

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