Customer Reviews: Ivy and Bean What's the Big Idea? (Book 7)
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on February 3, 2013
*** Warning: This review contains spoilers! ***

First off, I have to give this book praise because it is the first chapter book that my 7-year-old first grader read all on her own, cover to cover. She got it as a gift, and though she was at first indifferent to it, once she picked it up, she read the entire book in one sitting. She is now very excited to go back and read book one - this book is the second in the series - and the rest of the series, too. The reading level is exactly appropriate for her, and clearly she finds the content amusing.

I want to say, too, that I really liked Ivy and Bean's teacher, Ms. Aruba-Tate. I thought she was kind, yet firm, and just what an elementary school teacher should be.

So, why only 3 stars? Basically, I don't like the way the two girls behave. I'm probably over-thinking it, but here goes...

Sure, Ivy and Bean's antics appeal to young readers. But I just can't get over the worry that maybe my daughter will pick up some bad ideas, with disastrous results. Yes, Ramona Quimby (whose books I love) behaved badly, too, but usually, by the time she got to be school-aged, she was well-intentioned, though sometimes misguided or misunderstood. Ivy and Bean, on the other hand, cause trouble even though it seems like they should know better.

Early on in the book, I was appalled that Bean physically tackled another student to the ground and then smashed plums into his hair - at school! Okay, I can see the humor in the situation, and in the book, Bean and the other student were simply told to "work it out." Yet, in these days of hyper-awareness regarding bullying, most schools have a zero tolerance policy, and if something like that happened in real life, Bean would be sent to the principal's office for sure, maybe even suspended. Bean also uses phrases like "shut up" - which I work hard to get my kids NOT to say - and she cuts her sister's hair in her sleep. Ivy, though sweet and quiet on the outside, misuses her active imagination and tells a tall tale at school about a ghost in the bathroom, eventually leading to another girl literally being scared to tears. She does end up feeling bad about getting in trouble, yet she doesn't learn the lesson about not spreading false stories. She continues to adhere to her ghost story, causing even more trouble. In the end, she basically gets away with her antics, never having to take responsibility for the mess she made in the bathroom.

Another issue I have with this book is that I think it unnecessarily exposes young readers to ideas they may not be ready for. First of all, there is this talk of ghosts and death and graves. I actually didn't mind it so much, personally - I know my daughter can handle that kind of talk - but I can imagine that maybe there are other first graders who might not be ready for a book about a ghost. Second, the girls at one point want to make a blood oath. Even though they didn't go through with it, I'm not sure I'm entirely comfortable with the idea that my young daughter now knows that some people will actually consider purposely making themselves bleed just for fun. Finally, when Ivy makes her ghost-begone potion, she finds that "ponie" is an ingredient, but she doesn't have a "pony", so she glosses over it. Now, I am a mother who encourages my daughter to look up words she doesn't know. Luckily, my daughter doesn't use Google on her own yet, but one quick search tells me that "ponie" is slang for a "sexual female being that dances in a weird yet shexual [sic] manner". "Shexual" is apparently another slang word that means especially sexual. Not exactly the types of words I want my first grader exposed to...

I ended up spending a lot of time talking with my daughter about the difference between "book life" and "real life", and how things that happen in book life are entertaining and funny, partly because they are things we would NEVER do ourselves in real life, or else we'd get in REALLY big trouble.

In the end, I am allowing my daughter to read the rest of the books in this series, but I plan to read the books, too, so I can talk to her about specific concerns, if any more should arise.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon February 16, 2011
It is hard to find books for younger readers that combine silliness, mischief, friendship, authenticity, and common sense. It's even harder to find ones that don't have an undercurrent of hip irony, or, even worse, some odd note of sourness. The Ivy + Bean books manage to hit this sweet spot remarkably well.
Bean is the designated cut-up, but she is usually saved by a good sense of what is fair and allowable. Ivy is supposedely the long suffering "good girl", but she can get carried away by a mischievous streak, that can surprise Bean and the reader. So, we get a much more balanced team of friends than is usually the case, and a lot more opportunity for each character to be more than just a predictable "type".
Additionally, secondary characters, (parents, siblings, teachers, schoolmates), are not just stock figures, but develop actual personalities and contribute to the momentum of the various stories. This adds a lot more depth and variety to the books than one would normally expect.
This book worked as an attention-holding "read to" with our five year old, and drfited into a "read with" and then "read alone". That made it a wonderful transition book to independent reading.
And, remember the bonus - these are nice kids, who can be silly, or grumpy, or careless, but can also be loyal and thoughtful and responsible. Good company, I thought, for my little readers.
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on January 10, 2011
The Ivy & Bean books were among the first "long" books my first-grade daughter could read on her own, and she loves them. I love that they are much better literature than the Rainbow Magic series she also adores. I'd say they are more like the Ramona books: they're not formulaic like so many modern "early chapter book" series; each book in the series tells a different engaging story. Ivy and Bean are realistic characters who have realistic relationships with their parents, neighbors, classmates, and teachers.

This boxed set was a Christmas gift much appreciated by the six-year-old recipient. The vinyl-sticker paper dolls that come with the set are very nice quality and a fun extra.
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on November 21, 2008
I am the mother of a very kind-hearted 7 year old, and adorable, but pain in the butt to her older sister 4 year-old. I bought this book for my 7 year old because it had some sort of illustration on each page (she was very reluctant to move into chapter books, so I thought one with pictures all through would be a good compromise). I totally agree that the message is not the best if you focus on that aspect of the story, but if you have instilled proper values in your children, reading these stories only introduce them into a fantasy land. My daughter, and I'm not kidding about her being kindhearted, she's very sensitive to other people's feelings, but she really enjoyed this book, and has read it twice in 1 week. I say so long as you instill the right manner of behavior in your children, allowing a little mischief won't kill them. Reading is all about imagination anyway. If they ask why she got away with all the bad stuff, you can tell them the truth - it is a fantasy world, it doesn't work that way in hour house. I still think it's a fun transitional book for kids reluctant to move out of picture books.
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My six-year-old daughter loves to read and has recently started reading chapter books. Once she got over her obsession with the Junie B. Jones series, I managed to get her interested in the Cam Jansen series of books and then I discovered the Ivy and Bean series. My daughter loves the central characters, Bean and her best friend Ivy. The girls are precocious, intelligent, and always up to some adventure (or misadventure, depending on how one looks at it!). These traits appeal to my daughter as she is quite the adventurer herself, and the chapters are relatively short, which makes it easy for her to read independently. The books average about 100-120 pages, and she manages to read up to 40 pages per sitting (around 45 minutes).

What I found to be fascinating was that the plot for each story is so well-written and developed that my daughter could not stop once she started reading! I usually sit with her and supervise her reading, helping out with some difficult words, and she gets so involved with the story that she just keeps on reading. This to me is the mark of a good book, one that entices a young reader to keep reading. The language is not overly simplified, on the contrary, there are some challenging words which I help my daughter with (pronunciation and definition, if necessary).

The black and white illustrations that appear in each chapter add to the appeal of these books. This boxed set is a value buy since it contains three of the Ivy and Bean books, i.e. Ivy and Bean Take Care of the Babysitter, Ivy and Bean Bound to Be Bad, and Ivy and Bean Doomed to Dance. In addition, there is a bonus in the form of 2 stand-up Ivy and Bean dolls, plus four sheets of removable plastic wardrobe stickers which provide hours of fun for young children.

These books are a great way to motivate lower elementary children to read, and I would also recommend the first boxed set which comes with the Ivy and Bean Books 1-3 and a bonus book which conceals a secret journal!
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on February 18, 2013
I read constantly to our six year old daughter and decided to try this book. To say I was not pleased is an understatement! I thought that it had promise at the beginning but it quickly turned rude and insulting. The chapters dealt with witchcraft and ghosts in an odd and not so amusing way. I won't be reading any more of this series as even our daughter said those kids are not very nice!
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on January 5, 2008
To begin with, Bean is rotten to her older sister. Then, when she steals her sister's money, lies about her ankle, runs away, and is rude some more, she ends up being the glorified character because she gets away with it. She wants to be rotten to her sister some more, she and Ivy come up with a plan, they trespass on other people's yards, and they end up getting worms all over Bean's sister. Oh yeah, no dessert, no videos for a week, but her mom thinks it's funny. Ivy is celebrated because she doesn't turn out to be the nice girl Bean thought she would be. The only grown-up character with any common sense is made out to be a meanie just because she is the only one who tells Bean to do what's right.
This is a terrible children's book. Extremely disappointing.
So in summary, Bean is perpetually rude, to her mother and sister, lies, steals, runs away, trespasses, and is applauded for it. Ivy helps her and is another glorified character. Oh, they are cute, and the way they do everything is cute, and that makes it all okay, right?
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on July 23, 2012
I got this book from the library and could not believe my ears as I read it to my daughter. The name-calling between the sisters is relentless. Bean refers to nearly everything and everyone as "boring". She goes so far as to say: "Nice is another word for boring."
My daughter, who is 5 and a half, asked me what a "tight wad" was. (Bean calls her sister a tight wad.) I'm so glad I didn't spend money on this. Our daughters deserve a better example. The author chose to represent the lead characters as trite, mean-girl complainers. Our daughters deserve books that include adventures, bravery, emotion and yes, plenty of silliness, which this book has none of.
Here are some direct quotes: "Bean thought about kicking her sister in the shin...but then she got a great idea, one that would teach her sister not to be such a tightwad."
-(Bean says about Ivy's clothes) "What a goony costume. What a dork!"
-Bean says, "I'm the ghost of Mr. Killop. I lived in your house before. I died there. I've come to haunt you. Tonight while you are sleeping, I'll wrap my icy fingers around your neck!"

Unfortunately I could go on and on. If you want a list of better books for girls there are great ones listed at Mighty Girls website: [....]
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on October 30, 2013
I'm trying lots of chapter books to find good ones for my granddaughter. This is the first Ivy and Bean book about two seven year old neighbor girls who become friends. I loved the premiss UNTIL I read the first one in the series. Bean is definitely a problem child, constantly being a thorn in her sister's side, spewing bulling type words, running through neighbor's yards when asked not too, and finding fun in making others mad. Worse yet, she's unsupervised by her mother who seems to think Bean's actions are funny. Ivy dreams of becoming a witch and works on spells with Bean. They dig a hole in Bean's yard to get worms, which they throw in Bean's sister's face, while the sister slips around in the muddy hole. NOTHING endearing, cute, or valuable to share with young, or old children!!
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on July 11, 2013
Our local children's theatre does plays based on children's literature. I saw they had one scheduled for the upcoming season based on this book series. I always love to read my children the books before seeing a play or movie about them so I was thrilled to be able to discover a new series. However, to say I was disappointed would be an understatement. I could not even get through the first couple pages of reading this outloud to my 7 and 4 year old.

I was shocked that within just the first page there was name calling, bad attitudes and such disrespect. I understand being funny and mischievous and but this was just plain BAD. As a parent, we are working hard to shape character in our children - teaching them to love, be kind, respect each other, the basic stuff of getting along in this world and making a positive difference. I can not fathom that an author would purposefully write such blatant attitudes for a character in a children's book. Our kids absorb this and reflect what they read in books and see in TV.

What was amazing to me was that my kids picked up on it right away and even my daughter, at 4 years old, said, "mommy, she is not being very nice to her sister, I don't like this story".

I strive everyday to teach my kids to build each other up, not tear each other down. This is not 'silly entertainment' to me. Our children are created for better 'input' than this. They deserve better characters to emulate.
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