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*Faith, Hope, and Ivy June* by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor- young readers fantasy book review
Faith, Hope, and Ivy June
by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Ages 9-14 288 pages Delacorte June 2009 Hardcover    

Seventh-grade girls Ivy June and Catherine are participating in a unique student visitation program in Kentucky. Ivy June lives in a coal-mining community in the mountains, while Catherine lives in a privileged area of Lexington. Each girl is to visit the other and write down all her thoughts and feelings in a private journal.

Beginning with Ivy June’s visit to Lexington, the girls get to know each other. While recognizing preconceived stereotypes, they realize that they are more alike than different as Ivy June joins Catherine in one week of school and one week of sightseeing on spring vacation. Their conflicts are minor, with the exception of Ivy June inadvertently sharing Catherine’s secret about her boyfriend. Now Catherine wants Ivy June to tell a secret of her own.

When Ivy June returns home to her parents and grandparents, tension builds as she prepares for Catherine’s visit and realizes how very different their material circumstances really are. When Catherine finally arrives, the adjustment is difficult but not overwhelming. The girls’ lives both turn upside-down when tragedy strikes during the second visit; Catherine’s mother has emergency heart surgery and then Ivy June’s grandfather is trapped in a coal-mining accident.

Experienced author Phyllis Reynolds Naylor has an incredible knack for getting into the mind of a young teen. The entries in the girls’ alternating journals accompanied by the narrative text keep the story moving. Set in contemporary times, readers from all walks of life will identify with these characters.

Middle-grade girls never seem to get enough of stories about friendship. This book is unique compared to many of the mean-girl series currently in print, portraying less of a narrow social structure and comparing differing situations. The cover of the two girls walking into the woods is attractive, and readers will gravitate toward the book for that reason alone. The moral lessons are obvious: people from all walks of life are more the same than different, and happiness is not dependent upon money.

Although the story is predictable in many ways, the suspense and tension relating to the mining accident leads to a fast-paced, exciting conclusion.

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  Kristine Wildner/2009 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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