The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle: Catherine Webb
Alas, No Sunday Visits Today

Ivy and Bean Break the Fossil Record: Annie Barrows

I recently received a review copy of Ivy and Bean Break the Fossil Record, the third book in the Ivy and Bean series, written by Annie Barrows, and illustrated by Sophie Blackall. Although this book won't be published until July, I wanted to bring it to your attention now, because I know that a lot of parents out there are looking for good series books for beginning readers. You'll have time to read the first two books in the series (Ivy and Bean and Ivy and Bean and the Ghost That Had to Go), and be ready for this one when it comes out.

I think that Ivy and Bean are perfect for first to third graders. Although the protagonists are both girls (two unlikely best friends), I found Ivy and Bean Break the Fossil Record to be quite boy-friendly in its content. The book is a chapter book, with plenty of dialog, and amusing illustrations on nearly every page.

The main characters are in second grade. Bean is a tomboy, happy to be digging around in dirt, and the bane of her older sister's existence. Her hair flies about, and she has a hard time sitting still for Drop Everything and Read in school. Ivy seems an unlikely best friend for Bean at first, clad in cute little outfits, and so readily immersed in her book that she barely looks up when pestered. But both girls share spunk and determination, and a willingness to work hard to meet their goals.

In this book, Ivy and Bean's class gets caught up in World Record Fever, after reading a book on the subject. Bean tries to shove 257 straws into her mouth, another friend tries to hang sixteen spoons on her face, etc. Eventually, this leads Bean and Ivy to try to set a world record by becoming the youngest paleontologists in the world to discover a dinosaur fossil. Things don't go quite as expected, of course, but fun is had all around.

I like the interactions between the kids in this book, and the varied kids in Ivy and Bean's class. I also liked the way that the author brought Bean's dad into the book, as a worried parent, but one who backs up his daughter when needed, and needs a certain amount of attention from her, too. There's a scene in which Bean screams, to try to see if she can break a glass with her voice.

But even through her scream, Bean could hear another sound. It was the sound of her father running up the stairs, very, very fast.

A second later he burst through the door. "What?! What's the matter?!" he shouted. His face was whitish gray.

Bean and Ivy end up outside in the playhouse, a metaphorical doghouse. But they recover quickly, and are off to find other world records to break.

I think that kids will like this book. The language is fun and accessible ("easy-peasy", for example). There is mischief, and realistic teasing among the kids, but also some subtle positive messages. For instance, there's a point where Bean is tempted to brag about finding a "dinosaur".

There was a silence. Bean didn't want want to be a braggy kid. Everyone hates braggy kids. She would wait to tell about the dinosaur bones until someone else told about breaking a record.

The illustrations definitely add to the story. Bean looks particularly mischievous, and her older sister is the perfect vision of snooty adolescence. The kids all have big, expressive eyes, and frequently made me giggle. All in all, I think that this is a great new series for early readers, both boys and girls. I highly recommend it, and will certainly be picking up copies of the books for kids I know in this age range.

Book: Ivy and Bean Break the Fossil Record
Author: Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Original Publication Date: July 2007
Pages: 132
Age Range: 7-10
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews of this series: Not a full review, but Franki lists the series in her list of "5 must-have books for classroom teachers" over at A Year of Reading. You can also find Ivy and Bean on HipWriterMama's latest list of Strong Girl Role Models.

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.