UP author Ellen Airgood has returned with a second heart warming middle school novel. THE EDUCATION OF IVY BLAKE starts shortly after PRAIRIE EVERS ended. (See my review of PRAIRIE EVERS here.) Ivy, now a fifth grader, is living with her best friend's family and she loves the security of Prairie's caring parents and grandmother. But she knows that they struggle financially and with a new baby on the way, Ivy wonders if the Evers have enough room in their house and in their hearts for her. So when her mother returns to get Ivy, with promises that everything will be alright this time, Ivy willingly leaves with her. Soon Ivy knows that "everything is NOT okay," but she shields the truth from the Evers family and tries to cope on her own.
This is a tender story about a young girl who often faces neglect and embarrassment from a mother who isn't able to (or chooses not to ) handle the responsibility of parenting. The topic may seem a little serious for middle schoolers, but Airgood has again handled it with finesse. Caring, supportive people, both young and old, enter Ivy's life at just the right time, A few encouraging words by Ivy's new teacher provide a nugget of hope that drives Ivy's summer quest to make a movie. A fight between best friends over really nothing will resonate with readers. I believe this novel will give encouragement to kids who have difficulties at home and will instill better understanding and compassion in those kids who are lucky enough to have loving, secure home lives.
I've read three novels by Ellen Airgood now, two written for middle schoolers, and then her adult novel SOUTH OF SUPERIOR which I reviewed here. I love her characters and hope she continues to write for both age groups. I actually contacted Airgood after reading PRAIRIE EVERS and then again when I heard that she was working on a sequel. She was gracious enough to answer my email and sent me a galley for THE EDUCATION OF IVY BLAKE. That means that may have been edits and changes between what I read and the published version. I must confess that this novel sat on my to-read shelf for months and months while I read other titles, most of which had blogging deadlines. I also felt I needed to reread PRAIRIE EVERS because I really did not remember anything except it had chickens in it. Well, it only took one page of reading and I was totally back in the story of the two friends and I ended up reading the entire book before I went to bed. I apologize to Ellen Airgood for taking so long to read this. As I told her in the original email, I want to share her writing with my granddaughter who is now in 5th grade. It will be a good reading fit! If you have a middle school girl in your life, consider getting both books. I am sure she will enjoy them. Even better, read them together. There are great characters and tough situations that will make great discussions.