Ivy & Bean: Doomed to Dance by Annie Barrows
Illustrated By: Sophie Blackall
Geared Towards: Ages 6-10
Published By: Chronicle Books
Publication Date: November 2009
When you were a young girl, did you ever want to run away? Were you ever so thoroughly convinced that a broken limb or a horrible sickness might be the preferred option when up against something you really truly didn't want any part of? Did you ever convince your parents you wanted to participate in something that you all too soon discovered wasn't what you'd expected? Did you ever beg out only to be denied?
All of these and more are true for Ivy and Bean the characters of Annie Barrows' early chapter book Ivy & Bean Doomed to Dance.
Ivy and Bean are the best of friends, and these best friends are now cast as the unseemly "friendly squids" for their ballet recital. This is not at all what either of the girls signed up for. Who know ballet would be so awful? It was supposed to be fun like it was portrayed in The Royal Book of the Ballet. In the story of Giselle there was dancing, the kicking off of heads, stabbing, and death. It was a ballet about an out and out brawl, far more entertaining than Wedding Beneath the Sea.
When the girls first got their bright idea to sign up for ballet, each had had to talk her parents into letting her go, and it wasn't an easy sell. Both Ivy and Bean had had to promise they wouldn't whine or complain, nor would they give up. But being stuck playing the part of a squid certainly warranted a small bit of whining, right? Mom and dad will surely understand and allow them to drop out of dance class. Wrong! Quitting is not an option.
If they are to have a chance at outsmarting Madame Joy and making it out of the recital alive and without looking ridiculous as squid they're going to have to really start brainstorming. There are several options available to them. They could break an arm, get sick, or even run away. None of these options are ideal, but Ivy and Bean are prepared to do what it takes to get out dancing in Madame Joy's stupid ballet recital if it's the last thing they do.
I had heard of the Ivy and Bean books before, but this isn't a series my daughter had yet started on so neither had I. I have to say that I thought the storyline was really pretty cute, and I enjoyed how the author seemed to understand her characters. Reading as a parent it was very easy for me to see how true to form they really were. Little girls are indecisive and constantly changing their minds on what they like and don't like, want to do and don't want to do. They're bossy and don't like to be told what to do. They embarrass easily, and they are very curious young creatures. It's true that girls can be very mysterious, even from a young age, and as such it's hard to always figure them out. Ivy and Bean are no different.
There was never any question in my mind that this book told a great, engaging story that any little girl would enjoy reading. I will admit though that when it started out I was a little taken aback by the dark tone of the discussion Ivy and Bean were having about ballet and Giselle in particular. Seemed that bloody toes, murder, and suicide were all a bit much for a book geared at such a young age group. The story quickly turned from this towards a more lighthearted direction, and I understand why the author chose to incorporate these earlier aspects into her story. I just can't see handing the book over to my own 6 year old (who reads at a 4-5th grade level) to read just yet. I don't doubt that she'd enjoy the story and probably wouldn't even think too much of this initial bit, but I don't know...
All things considered I'd certainly recommend the book; I'd just do so with a slight warning as I've already done here. As a whole I think Ive & Bean: Doomed to Dance will be a real crowd pleaser among 1st to 4th grade girls. The story itself, told through eleven short chapters, is something they'll be able to relate to and laugh over. Plus the illustrations, done by Sophie Blackall, do a wonderful job of visually cataloging Ivy and Bean's adventure.
**Thanks to Chronicle Books for giving me this review opportunity.**
OUR GRADE: 4 hearts