Ivy Aberdeen's letter to the world

Ashley Herring Blake

Book - 2018

"Twelve-year-old Ivy Aberdeen's house is destroyed in a tornado, and in the aftermath of the storm, she begins to develop feelings for another girl at school"--

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New York : Little, Brown and Company 2018.
Main Author
Ashley Herring Blake (author)
First edition
Physical Description
310 pages ; 21 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by New York Times Review

READING A MIDDLE-GRADE NOVEL Can feel like opening Pandora's box. Devastating storms. Racial injustice. Violence, divorce, bullying, class conflict, depression, displacement, illness, grief, homophobia, abandonment, isolation, money worries and suicide attempts. That swarm of afflictions - all of them released from these four new books - might seem extreme, but the world doesn't always spare children. The students of Parkland, Fla., know this well. In my daughters' school, children are mourning a beloved first grader who died from complications of the flu. Her friends are 5,6,7 - too young to face such grief, we think helplessly, except that suddenly they must. Fiction gives children a chance to encounter loss gently, on the page, and to see how different characters find their way forward. Some measure of a book's success, then, might be how deftly it explores that pain - and what small winged creatures it might offer young readers alongside it, in the form of solace, courage, strength, patience, pride, resistance and hope. Or maybe even secret treasure? In Varian Johnson's THE PARKER INHERITANCE (Scholastic, 331 pp., $16.99; ages 8 to 12), 12year-old Candice Miller faces "a horrible summer" away from her friends and her father in Atlanta. After her parents' divorce, she and her mother have decamped to her grandmother's house in South Carolina, where Candice learns that her grandmother, who died two years before, was at the center of a city scandal, digging up tennis courts in search of buried treasure. This is the first hint that Candice won't be as bored as she imagines with nothing but library books, an iPod with her father's "ancient" music, and the kid across the street for company: a year younger, "a book snob" and a boy. Johnson has written a powerful novel for readers who, like Candice, "love a good mystery." Candice finds a letter with a clue to a $40 million treasure and a tantalizing note in her grandmother's handwriting. Brandon, the boy across the street, reveals himself asa worthy ally with troubles of his own. They uncover a history of racial violence in the city of Lambert, including acts of vengeance against those who attacked an African-American family in 1957 and those who stood by and did nothing. I love that "The Parker Inheritance" presents compelling arguments against doing nothing - and that Johnson's characters move through a range of responses to racism, a powerful way to enlarge conversations about injustice. The premise of the mastermind who contrived a treasure hunt sometimes strains credulity, but Johnson writes about the long shadows of the past with such ambition that any reader with a taste for mystery will appreciate the puzzle Candice and Brandon must solve. (One wonderful touch: They make headway when they discover clues based on the classic middle-grade mystery "The Westing Game.") Their adventure is also a quest for dignity and justice and a journey to understand each other. In a novel marked by scenes of pain and rage, their friendship, genuine and sustaining, is a great achievement. Friendship is at the heart of Vera Brosgol's latest graphic novel, be prepared (First Second, 244 pp., $16.99; ages 8 to 12). A catastrophic birthday sleepover persuades 8-year-old Vera, who left Russia at 5, that she will never "fit in with the American kids." But Vera is a comeback kid. With charming optimism, she lobbies her mother to let her spend the summer the way her well-off classmates do: at sleepaway camp. Best of all, it's "Russian camp," for immigrants, where Vera is bound to find her tribe. Her little brother is dragged along to become a reluctant wolf pup: collateral camp damage. Because camp is not what Vera imagined. Excessive marching, wild animals, kitchen duty, a looming scout test, nighttime raids, an evil-smelling latrine and 14year-old bunkmates, both named Sasha, with no time for small girls who don't wear bras. Vera must speak and sing in Russian, bathe in a creek, attend Orthodox services in a downpour. Even her brother the wolf pup ignores her. Still, she doesn't give up. "Camp is O.K.," she writes home gamely, requesting bug spray while reporting that she has no friends yet. "Be Prepared" is a complete delight, from the first sly jokes about the American Girl-ish doll Complicity to Brosgol's evocative artwork, which ranges from droll to wistful to outright lovely. Vera is a heroine for the ages, enduring day after lonely, buggy day without losing her spirit, compassion or love of beauty. Her sincerity is a beacon in the darkest latrine. Her triumphs are subtle and richly deserved. And her struggles are an eloquent reminder that even without outright tragedy, childhood is filled with challenges, cruelties and opportunities for courage. Ivy Aberdeen is another girl of spirit, living with her parents, twin baby brothers and older sister, Layla, in the family home in rural Georgia - until a tornado rips their house away. That's just the beginning of Ashley Herring Blake's middle-grade debut, IVY ABERDEEN 'S LETTER TO THE WORLD (Little, Brown, 307 pp., $17.99; ages 8 to 12). The title alludes to Emily Dickinson's poem addressing a world "that never wrote to me," raising questions about what we withhold from the people closest to us. In the aftermath of the storm, 12-yearold Ivy's best comfort comes from drawing, until she befriends June. Same-sex attraction is rare in middle-grade fiction, so it's gratifying to see the full arc of their relationship as Ivy's feelings move beyond simple friendship. Blake captures all the exhilaration of a first crush without shying away from Ivy's confusion and her worries about acceptance. Blake is adept at revealing how powerfully a misunderstanding can lodge in a child's mind, and Ivy's (mistaken) assumption about how her sister might react to her feelings for a girl adds another layer of tension to a family in crisis. The sisters' relationship is one of the great rewards of this novel that includes a large and vivid cast of secondary characters, who give the story its sense of abundant texture. Set in St. Thomas, Kheryn Callender's debut, HURRICANE CHILD (Scholastic, 211 pp., $16.99; ages 8 to 12), introduces 12-year-old Caroline, who faces storms of her own. Her schoolmates bully her. Her teacher torments her. Her mother disappeared over a year before, and the postcards have stopped coming. A girl turns up, claiming to be Caroline's sister. Her father does not explain. And Caroline sees spirits without knowing what they intend. Caroline is a lively girl who hops off a shared taxi without paying and turns back to grin at the irate driver. But her predicament is bleak. She escapes to the schoolyard only to meet "a half circle" of girls who pelt her with rocks. Caroline's principal offers a dash of warmth and understanding. But adult support is threadbare; her mother is gone and her father "has enough to worry about already." At first, this novel seems to be about self-reliance, and the kind of anger that can help brace a person in terrible circumstances. Caroline, we learn early, won't "cry after a bum smacking." But she is innately loving, as memories of her mother make clear. Her friendship with a classmate, Kalinda, brings the first sign that Caroline's future may brighten. Their connection is intense, but it's only after encountering tourists from a cruise ship - two white women holding hands - that Caroline realizes she "would like to hold Kalinda's hand too." This scene, delicate and straightforward, bears the twin revelations that Caroline is falling for Kalinda, and that Kalinda regards same-sex couples as wrong. Their journey toward understanding is harrowing but rewarding, because of all the dangers in this novel - from hurricanes to hauntings - the greatest by far is isolation. When Caroline risks heartbreak and scorn to tell Kalinda how she feels, most readers will understand why. They will also know why Caroline embarks on a perilous search for her mother. The stakes are high, the revelations are serious and Callender doesn't sugarcoat. But readers who face troubles of their own may recognize Caroline's fierce resolve: Others may be "fine with letting go of people they love," but she is not. It's not a soft or gentle vision; these are not circumstances anyone wants children to face. But Caroline's insistence on love, no matter what, might be just what young readers need to see. NALINI JONES is the author of the story collection "What You Call Winter." She teaches writing at Columbia University.

Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [April 15, 2018]
Review by Booklist Review

Ivy Aberdeen is not in a good place. She's lost her house to a massive tornado, her mother seems to barely notice she exists (because of the new twins), and her sister is being really mean. In the aftermath of the storm, Ivy and her family must decide what to do, and one solution means leaving Ivy with a new family until their house can be rebuilt. But when she begins to develop romantic feelings for a girl in her class, and her private notebook of sketches goes missing, everything starts to unravel. Blake (How to Make a Wish, 2017) brings Ivy and her family to life in her examination of familial connections, friendships, art, and first-time crushes, which is poignantly set against a background of destruction and displacement. This necessary and emotionally complex addition to the body of middle-grade literature offers readers a positive, complex, and courageous portrayal of burgeoning sexuality and relationships within the world of junior high.--Bittner, Rob Copyright 2018 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

After 12-year-old Ivy's rural Georgia home is obliterated by a tornado, she heads to a shelter for the night with her parents, older sister, and twin baby brothers. There, Ivy ends up hanging out with her classmate June, a budding poet who admires Ivy's drawing talent. The same night, Ivy's treasured notebook goes missing-a book where she brought all her secrets to life, including the fact that Ivy thinks she likes girls. Worse, the person who has her notebook starts leaving notes in her locker, telling Ivy she should share her secret with someone she trusts. Black (Suffer Love) gives Ivy the deep-thinking soul of an artist, gently examining the trauma of losing her home, Ivy's excitement about her crush on June, and her fears that people will judge her if they discover her secret. Blake dots Ivy's world with sensitive and knowing conversation partners, young and old, with whom Ivy shares her questions and worries. This is an emotionally sensitive and elegantly written novel about loss and the first stirrings of love. Ages 8-12. Agent: Rebecca Podos, Rees Literary. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-6-A sweet story of a first crush and being stuck in the middle. In the aftermath of a tornado, Ivy and her family find themselves without a home and dependent upon the kindness of others. Already often overlooked as the middle child, Ivy feels even more invisible now that her family of six shares a small hotel room. What's worse, Ivy is developing feelings for another girl at school; but after hearing the way her older sister reacted when her best friend came out, Ivy doesn't know who to talk to. Filling a much-needed gap in middle grade literature, this story addresses not just the topic of a first crush, but also the invisibility frequently felt by middle children. The protagonist struggles with the disappearance of a beloved journal after a tornado and a lack of privacy while sharing one room with her entire family. She is too young to help care for her twin brothers but old enough that she is often forgotten about. Ivy doesn't feel comfortable discussing her blossoming romantic feelings with her family but is able to find a trusted adult in whom to confide. Young readers will find Ivy's challenges very real and will sympathize with her choices, both good and bad. Give to fans of Tim Federle's Better Nate than Ever or Barbara Dee's Star-Crossed. VERDICT Relatable and engaging. A first purchase for public and school libraries.-Jenni Frencham, Columbus Public Library, WI © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Horn Book Review

When twelve-year-old Ivys rural Georgia home is destroyed in a tornado, her distress over the upheaval experienced by her large, now hotel-dwelling family is compounded by the loss of her notebook full of drawings of herself holding hands with another girl. Someone has begun returning the drawings to her locker with notes: You can have your notebook back when you talk to someone about it. Ivys world does include a few queer role models, but an overheard conversation makes her wary of coming out to those closest to her. Blake believably melds this internal conflict and the story of Ivys first crush (on awkward, excitable newcomer June, who has secrets of her own) with other concerns. The major crisis in her familys life, made even more difficult when one of her twin baby brothers falls seriously ill, intertwines with Ivys worries about where she fits in as a middle childespecially after her parents ask her to stay temporarily at a friends house to, as Ivy sees it, get her out of the way. A few credulity stretching, too-articulate moments notwithstanding, Blake creates a sensitive portrayal of a preteen whos begun to figure herself out but isnt sure how she meshes with others, and of the bumbling and overstressed, but well-meaning, friends and family around her. shoshana flax (c) Copyright 2018. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Twelve-year-old Ivy Aberdeen finds comfort in drawing; she keeps a private sketchbook the way other kids her age keep written diaries.After a tornado destroys her home, her notebook, filled with things Ivy isn't ready to talk about or trust with anyone, goes missing, and she feels the last bit of her world drop out from under her. The images are telling; there can be no doubt that the white girl with the "coiling mane" of wild strawberry-blonde hair is 12-year-old Ivy or that she's holding hands with a dark-haired white girl in every picture. When her drawings begin turning up in her school locker, Ivy's biggest fear comes true: someone knows her secret. The mystery person encourages Ivy to come out, but whom can she trust? Is she even ready? Blake's (Suffer Love, 2016) first middle-grade novel is characterized by rich, descriptive prose. The tornado scene is filled with breathtaking urgency as Ivy and her family run for safety, and the descriptions of Ivy's contradictory and confusing feelings capture the heartbreaking difficulty of a non-normative early adolescence filled with questions of identity and belonging. Most characters are assumed white; the black lesbian who owns the inn where the Aberdeens stay after the storm and who steps in as a surrogate mother while Ivy's own is occupied with insurance and a sick baby, is engaged to a brown-skinned Latina.Ivy's story is no mere niche-filler in LGBTQ middle-grade realismit's a standard-setter. (Fiction. 8-14) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.