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“There’s more than one way to tell each other things, and there’s more than one way to listen, too. And if you’ve never heard a tree telling you something, then I’d say you don’t really know how to listen just yet,” Ida B. –Ida B
Ida B: and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World
by Katherine Hannigan
Ida B doesn’t like change. Every day, she has the same thing for breakfast: oats with raisins. Every day, she has the same thing for lunch: peanut butter on one slice of bread, milk, and an apple. Ida B also wants to spend “every day with her Mama and Daddy, Rufus and Lulu, the trees and the mountains and the snakes and the birds. All day, every day.”
When Ida B goes to kindergarten, she quickly changes from an inquisitive girl to a quiet, sullen one. Her parents decide to homeschool Ida B. Ida B is happy to spend every day with her parents. When the trees tell Ida B that trouble is coming, Ida B doesn’t think anything will really happen. When Mama gets cancer, Ida B is forced to return to school. Ida B feels betrayed and hardens her heart; she doesn’t want to ever be hurt again.
Instead of making friends at school, Ida B keeps her classmates away with glares. She refuses to talk to her parents, and she no longer goes to visit the trees. Ida B is determined to “stand there with my mouth closed tight, my lips zipped, glued, and stapled together to keep the angry words that were banging to get out…” The only bright spot in Ida B’s world is her teacher Mrs. W, who quietly encourages Ida B to share her feelings.
Ida B chronicles one girl’s struggle to deal with the changes that come with her mother’s cancer. Since Ida B is written from Ida B’s point of view, the reader will be able to understand her hurt and confusion. Ida B’s feelings are explained in ways that younger readers will understand. However, some readers may have difficulty understanding Ida B’s ability to talk to nature. Readers may also struggle with the story’s difficult vocabulary, such as forbearance, engulfing, dismemberment, and foe.
At the end of the story, Ida B learns the importance of apologizing and sharing her feelings with others. The story doesn’t end with a cheerful conclusion where every problem is solved. Instead, Ida B eventually shares her feelings, which lightens her burden. Even though Ida B teaches positive lessons, readers who love adventure and fantasy books may quickly become bored with Ida B’s story because it focuses on feelings rather than actions. However, anyone who has been faced with a difficult situation will relate to Ida B. Because much of the book revolves around Ida B thinking about her feelings and talking to nature, young readers may have a difficult time finishing the book. If you’re looking for realistic fiction that teaches life lessons, you may want to try Wish by Barbara O’Connor instead of Ida B.
- Ida B angrily kicks a tree. “…I kicked its trunk as hard as I could so my foot ached something fierce, but I didn’t even whimper.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- When Ida B learns that her father is selling part of the orchard, “the only thing I cared about was putting together a plan to save me and my valley. But for all my wishing and hoping and sending out ten different kinds of prayers for a good one, not a single decent plan came out of me.”