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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Growing Up Ivy, written by Peggy Dymond Leavey. Dundurn Press, 2010. $12.99 ages 10 and up

"Back in the city, she'd always
welcomed an excuse to go walking
at night with Frannie, looking in
through lighted windows, imagining
what secrets might lie in the rooms
beyond their view."

An imagination is one of the things that Ivy has in spades! She has learned to let it run wild while living with her mother, Frannie. Frannie is a young mother with a yen for the acting life of the big city. When she gets her chance to go to New York to find work, she is off.  Ivy is left behind, with a note to her paternal grandmother explaining that Frannie has gone and needs someone to care for her daughter. A grandmother seems the perfect solution.

Ivy has never met that grandmother or her father, Alva. Ivy is markedly concerned about her grandmother Maud; but, she has grandiose ideas about the father who will one day ride up on a white charger to save her. The Depression is a harsh and difficult time for all. Ivy and her mother have had their share of troubles; but, Ivy has remained upbeat and positive. Her grandmother's no-nonsense view of life threatens that optimism. As Ivy waits for her mother to come for her, she spends much of her time writing her life story on scraps of paper provided by her grandmother. There, her imagination can soar!

When Ivy's father shows up one day, driving a colorful, horse-drawn caravan, she is thrilled. She begs him to take her with him for a summer of selling shoes, and he agrees. They find comfort as they travel together, each learning from the other about love and hope. Arriving back in time to start school, Ivy is dismayed to learn that her mother has made no contact. She immerses herself in her writing and reading. It is at school that she meets Charlie Bayliss, a young man with a story of his own. Life becomes more interesting for both of them as their friendship grows.

Ivy is not the only wonderful character in this fine book, but this is definitely her story. The writing is commendable, the characters lively and likeable, the setting strong and the sense of community vibrant. I read late into the night wanting to know what would happen to these people that I had come to like so much. I enjoyed every page and recommend it highly. It would make a great read in an intermediate classroom and is certain to encourage discussion of the hard times that so many faced in the 1930s.

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