“Ivy’s eyes were binging across the pages of her book. Bing, bing, bing. She looked like she was watching a Ping-Pong game.” This is just one example of the wonderfully visual writing style of author Annie Barrows from the third book in the Ivy and Bean adventures, entitled Ivy + Bean Break the Fossil Record.
Sophie Blackall does a phenomenal job of capturing the characters and their many moods. The posturing of the teacher, Mrs. Aruba-Tate, in the illustration on page 13 is so perfect: she is trying very hard to be patient with a precocious little Bean. The pictures on pages 26 and 27 entirely capture the girls. Bean is slouching and messy-haired; Ivy is precisely groomed and lady-like, clutching her book happily to her chest. Their heads are bent together over their conversation.
Ivy and Bean are the perfect team. Ivy loves her books and approaches life carefully with all the common sense she can muster. Bean, on the other hand - well, doesn’t. What she does have - in spades - is excitement and enthusiasm. The personalities of the other children in their class are wonderfully varied and eccentric in their own rights. In so many books written for children, we are handed several little carbon copies to make up a whole classroom of thirty kids. The diversity that makes up Ivy and Bean’s little world is one of the many points in its favor. Even the chapter titles are fun: “On your mark, get set, yikes!” and “Ivybeanosaur” are only two examples. They tweak the interest and beg to be read.
This book’s adventure begins with Bean’s teacher loaning her a shiny new
Book of World Records in desperate attempt to keep her quiet during Drop Everything and Read! This well-meaning gesture excites Bean’s fertile imagination, and soon the need for the biggest, most, or longest something sweeps the school - via the playground, of course. Bean is determined to beat a record by setting her own, but which one? She tries to break the “most straws in the mouth” record, since the most cartwheels, most spoons stuck to the face, and the most M&Ms eaten in under a minute get snatched up by classmates. There’s plenty of jealousy and disbelief to go around, with all the classmates vying for a spot in the
When her dad clearly thinks it impossible for Bean to cram more than 257 straws into her mouth, she pulls out the 44 already in there and “she handed the spitty straws to her father.” Guaranteed giggle material there! Her father also doesn’t like the “fastest dish washer” plan. The broken plate on the floor after Bean’s marathon attempt helps her understand just why he isn’t gung-ho about that one. The excitement continues from there, getting more and more outrageously unbelievable, and potentially getting the girls into even more trouble than they’ve seen together before. From screams to wide, deep holes dug in the backyard to sneaking into Bean’s older sister’s room, the girls make adventure at every precarious turn.
The girls learn that sometimes it is almost better to be wrong, especially when Dad ends up being so supportive! If nothing else, they learn that it never actually hurts to say the words “you were right, and we were probably wrong.” Other than good (and fun!) life lessons, one of the great things about the Ivy and Bean books are the new words snuck into the storytelling; words like ichthyosaur and paleontologist help offer new interests in a smart and funny way.
Best of all, through Annie Barrows, Ivy and Bean have quite a way with words themselves:
“We rock,” Bean said.
“No. We fossil,” giggled Ivy.