Book Review: Ivy & Bean (and a Potential Giveaway!)

E has a new love, the Ivy & Bean books by Anne Barrows (amazon affiliate link – this is actually on my list of things to get E for a gift, it is the first three books plus a book that acts as a little treasure box for just 3 dollars more than the first book).  There are eight books in the series (amazon affiliate link). We haven’t gotten through all the series yet but the first book had me bursting into laughter as I read aloud.  Now, there are reviews online that get all uppity about the main plot of the book, complaining about the presence of “witchcraft” in the little girls’ pretend play but we had no problems with it.  There were a few things I glossed over a little bit – some details about using a frogs and worms for spells but I just did that because E is only 3.  Oh, and one or two slang words that aren’t yet in E’s vocabulary.

The story is of two girls on the same cul-de-sac and they each assume one another is boring.  That is, until they get to know one another and have wonderful, imaginative adventures.  The illustrations are inhabited by the words, which I love, and it makes some of the written descriptions less detailed – a boon for reading aloud.

The part that had me laughing the hardest (spoiler alert, by the way) was when Ivy and Bean see Bean’s crying sister through a window.  Bean starts to think about all the things her sister has done for her, kind things that only sisters can do (I’m both a big and little sister in our family so I love the sister interplay).  The reader starts to think Bean will feel a change of heart and not go ahead with her dastardly plan, and I think that if this was one of those books written more for adults than for kids that would be the case, but there is no moralizing here!  Bean realizes her sister is crying for a reason unrelated to worrying about her younger sister and gets mad as well as even.  The pacing in the scene is perfect.  I don’t think that a young girl reading the book would start playing pranks on her siblings just because it happened in a book, E really related more to the fun friendship Ivy and Bean have.

One side note, though.  Some of the things they do are things I don’t think kids can do today in their neighborhoods such as climb through neighbors’ backyards.  E and I talked about this as we read, probably just me over-lawyering things.  She now says in reference to rules, by the way, “that’s not the rule in the law!”  When have I ever said that?  Well, maybe I have told her seatbelts are mandated by the law but what does that have to do with not putting your feet on the table?


Ivy and Bean is a series from Chronicle Books – I have been following them on Twitter and they announced a neat contest.  I pick and list $500 worth of books from their site and if I win, I get all of the ones I selected, one commenter on this post gets all the books, AND the charity of my choice does too.  So, three sets of books!  I knew what I wanted to do was give them to my sister in law’s kindergarten class at Kenilworth Elementary in Phoenix, AZ: Here’s their blog. My sister in law spends her own money on books for her students, as do most teachers. We try to help buy supplies for her class, too. Last year she had 38 pupils!  If for some reason the rules don’t let me give it directly to the class, I’d give them to the school library.  It got me thinking that I should let her pick what books she’d want.  Here was her reply: “I LOVE spending imaginary money.”

Here are the books that YOU, Kenilworth, and yours truly could win:

Over and Under the Snow  $16.99

Winter’s Night Pop-Up Advent Calendar  $10.99

The Conductor  $18.95

What Puppies Do Best  $14.99

A Butterfly Is Patient  $16.99

The Woods  $16.99

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site  $16.99

Twelve Dancing Princesses  $16.99

The Big Wish  $16.99

Press Here  $14.99

His Shoes Were Far Too Tight  $16.99

Amazing Animals: Cheetahs  $5.99

Amazing Animals: Dolphins  $5.99

Amazing Animals: Elephants  $5.99

Amazing Animals: Wolves  $5.99

Out of Sight  $19.99

Eight Winter Nights  $16.99

The Story of Little Red Riding Hood  $18.99

Lots of Dots  $15.99

Chicken Big  $16.99

Shadow  $15.99

Day & Night  $14.99

One Too Many  $16.99

Sylvia Long’s Thumbelina  $17.99

Chicken Scratches  $14.99

Amazing Animals: Parrots  $5.99

There Was an Old Lady  $16.99

Eye-Popping 3-D Pets  $19.99

Creature ABC  $19.99

Spot the Plot  $15.99

Dinosaurs Roar, Butterflies Soar!  $16.99

Nana Cracks the Case!  $14.99

Animals Marco Polo Saw  $16.99

Little Oink  $14.99


So, do you want to give it a shot and enter?  If you have a blog, just post your pick list and submit it on the Happy Haulidays site but you should also comment here.  You can say whatever you like, if you need an idea, let me know your favorite imaginary game when you were a kid.  Who knows, worth a try, right?  And this list was selected by a fabulous kindergarten teacher so you know they’ll be great books for your little one(s).  I’ll be tweeting the link to this post for extra entries.

Contest ends 12/2/11!


On the subject of reviews, here are some of my latest ones on!

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle

Stellaluna by Janell Cannon

Book Recommendations for Two Year Olds (for the occasion of’s second anniversary!)

44 thoughts on “Book Review: Ivy & Bean (and a Potential Giveaway!)

    1. Thanks! I wanted to wait to reply to comments until after the contest cutoff in case it messed with comment numbering. So nice chatting with you on twitter, by the way!


  1. all the animal books look so cute! i love them…especially the elephant ones as they’re one of my favorite animals!


  2. Okay, so first off.. grand-daughter loves Ivy & Bean.
    Second..all my grandkiddies would love your stash of titles! Holly got all the good ones..

    so saying that..good luck to both of us!

    jeaneC from CA
    jcamp2020 at aol


  3. Wow! I hope you win and get all those wonderful books. Having grown up in Phoenix, I agree that these books would be great.


  4. My favorite imaginary game as a kid was the classic furniture and noggin busting “Hot Lava.” In case any readers grew up in civilized realms, the floor is hot now lava, so rather than being boiled alive feet first, you leap from object to object.

    Loved this game as a kid. Might even play it some afternoon when my kids aren’t home to learn the insanity. Then again, when I miss (or directly hit furniture with a previously undisclosed weakness), who will call 911?



    1. I played that too! Also, a variant was “alligator pit” where they would chomp anything dangling off the edge of the couch. Ah, good times. You’re right about the risk inhetent in doing it as an adult, darn. 🙂


  5. Love your list! We’ve read all the Ivy and Bean books as well and have little talks as well. Have you read the Clementine books? Those are just as fun.


    1. It was fun! I am not sure if the contest closing on 12/2 means all entries or just new blog submissions but I will look into it. Good luck with your list!


  6. Thanks for sending me the link to this review. It’s great! Kiddo just read me the first chapter to the first book the other evening, and then was so intrigued she stayed up (shhhh!) to read the next four or five. I loved what I heard — the girls are 7 and I think it’s the right reading level for many 7-year-olds — but she did tell me that there was something about wanting (or waiting for) a frog to die so they could use it in a spell. After reading your review, I think it’s a bit clearer.


    1. I was just thinking she might have an issue with some of the spell related stuff but your daughter is old enough to put it into context. The friendship is my favorite aspect of the series so I let some of the plot points slide. 🙂


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