Cover image for Ivy Aberdeen's letter to the world / Ashley Herring Blake.
Title:
Ivy Aberdeen's letter to the world / Ashley Herring Blake.
ISBN:
9780316515474
Publication Information:
New York : Little, Brown and Company, 2019.

©2018
Physical Description:
310 pages ; 20 cm
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Summary

Summary

When a tornado rips through town, twelve-year-old Ivy Aberdeen's house is destroyed and her family of five is displaced. Ivy feels invisible and ignored in the aftermath of the storm--and what's worse, her notebook filled with secret drawings of girls holding hands with girls has gone missing.

Mysteriously, Ivy's drawings begin to reappear in her locker with notes from someone telling her to speak openly about her identity. Ivy thinks--and hopes--that this someone might be her classmate, another girl for whom Ivy has begun to develop feelings.

Spoiler: In the end, the drawings and messages are being sent by Ivy's best friend, Taryn, and unfortunately the girl Ivy has feelings for doesn't return them--but the novel ends on a tone of hope for Ivy and her identity.

Titles featuring prominent LGBTQ characters have been gradually finding their way to the young adult shelves--but even rarer are middle grade books featuring LGBTQ protagonists. The fact that middle grade books such as George , Gracefully Grayson , and Better Nate Than Ever have main characters who are LGBTQ has gained each title widespread attention; and Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World helps to fill an even rarer category still: lesbian characters in middle grade. Ivy Aberdeen has the potential to be positioned as one of the few LGBTQ middle grade books pushing for more diversity on the shelves.

This sweet, tender novel has a strong voice in the vein of The Thing About Jellyfish , strong potential for the School & Library market, and is an award contender.


Author Notes

Ashley Herring Blake lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and two sons. She is the author of the young adult novel Suffer Love. Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World is her debut middle grade novel.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

After 12-year-old Ivy's rural Georgia home is obliterated by a tornado, she heads to a shelter for the night with her parents, older sister, and twin baby brothers. There, Ivy ends up hanging out with her classmate June, a budding poet who admires Ivy's drawing talent. The same night, Ivy's treasured notebook goes missing-a book where she brought all her secrets to life, including the fact that Ivy thinks she likes girls. Worse, the person who has her notebook starts leaving notes in her locker, telling Ivy she should share her secret with someone she trusts. Black (Suffer Love) gives Ivy the deep-thinking soul of an artist, gently examining the trauma of losing her home, Ivy's excitement about her crush on June, and her fears that people will judge her if they discover her secret. Blake dots Ivy's world with sensitive and knowing conversation partners, young and old, with whom Ivy shares her questions and worries. This is an emotionally sensitive and elegantly written novel about loss and the first stirrings of love. Ages 8-12. Agent: Rebecca Podos, Rees Literary. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Horn Book Review

When twelve-year-old Ivys rural Georgia home is destroyed in a tornado, her distress over the upheaval experienced by her large, now hotel-dwelling family is compounded by the loss of her notebook full of drawings of herself holding hands with another girl. Someone has begun returning the drawings to her locker with notes: You can have your notebook back when you talk to someone about it. Ivys world does include a few queer role models, but an overheard conversation makes her wary of coming out to those closest to her. Blake believably melds this internal conflict and the story of Ivys first crush (on awkward, excitable newcomer June, who has secrets of her own) with other concerns. The major crisis in her familys life, made even more difficult when one of her twin baby brothers falls seriously ill, intertwines with Ivys worries about where she fits in as a middle childespecially after her parents ask her to stay temporarily at a friends house to, as Ivy sees it, get her out of the way. A few credulity stretching, too-articulate moments notwithstanding, Blake creates a sensitive portrayal of a preteen whos begun to figure herself out but isnt sure how she meshes with others, and of the bumbling and overstressed, but well-meaning, friends and family around her. shoshana flax (c) Copyright 2018. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


New York Review of Books Review

READING A MIDDLE-GRADE NOVEL Can feel like opening Pandora's box. Devastating storms. Racial injustice. Violence, divorce, bullying, class conflict, depression, displacement, illness, grief, homophobia, abandonment, isolation, money worries and suicide attempts. That swarm of afflictions - all of them released from these four new books - might seem extreme, but the world doesn't always spare children. The students of Parkland, Fla., know this well. In my daughters' school, children are mourning a beloved first grader who died from complications of the flu. Her friends are 5,6,7 - too young to face such grief, we think helplessly, except that suddenly they must. Fiction gives children a chance to encounter loss gently, on the page, and to see how different characters find their way forward. Some measure of a book's success, then, might be how deftly it explores that pain - and what small winged creatures it might offer young readers alongside it, in the form of solace, courage, strength, patience, pride, resistance and hope. Or maybe even secret treasure? In Varian Johnson's THE PARKER INHERITANCE (Scholastic, 331 pp., $16.99; ages 8 to 12), 12year-old Candice Miller faces "a horrible summer" away from her friends and her father in Atlanta. After her parents' divorce, she and her mother have decamped to her grandmother's house in South Carolina, where Candice learns that her grandmother, who died two years before, was at the center of a city scandal, digging up tennis courts in search of buried treasure. This is the first hint that Candice won't be as bored as she imagines with nothing but library books, an iPod with her father's "ancient" music, and the kid across the street for company: a year younger, "a book snob" and a boy. Johnson has written a powerful novel for readers who, like Candice, "love a good mystery." Candice finds a letter with a clue to a $40 million treasure and a tantalizing note in her grandmother's handwriting. Brandon, the boy across the street, reveals himself asa worthy ally with troubles of his own. They uncover a history of racial violence in the city of Lambert, including acts of vengeance against those who attacked an African-American family in 1957 and those who stood by and did nothing. I love that "The Parker Inheritance" presents compelling arguments against doing nothing - and that Johnson's characters move through a range of responses to racism, a powerful way to enlarge conversations about injustice. The premise of the mastermind who contrived a treasure hunt sometimes strains credulity, but Johnson writes about the long shadows of the past with such ambition that any reader with a taste for mystery will appreciate the puzzle Candice and Brandon must solve. (One wonderful touch: They make headway when they discover clues based on the classic middle-grade mystery "The Westing Game.") Their adventure is also a quest for dignity and justice and a journey to understand each other. In a novel marked by scenes of pain and rage, their friendship, genuine and sustaining, is a great achievement. Friendship is at the heart of Vera Brosgol's latest graphic novel, be prepared (First Second, 244 pp., $16.99; ages 8 to 12). A catastrophic birthday sleepover persuades 8-year-old Vera, who left Russia at 5, that she will never "fit in with the American kids." But Vera is a comeback kid. With charming optimism, she lobbies her mother to let her spend the summer the way her well-off classmates do: at sleepaway camp. Best of all, it's "Russian camp," for immigrants, where Vera is bound to find her tribe. Her little brother is dragged along to become a reluctant wolf pup: collateral camp damage. Because camp is not what Vera imagined. Excessive marching, wild animals, kitchen duty, a looming scout test, nighttime raids, an evil-smelling latrine and 14year-old bunkmates, both named Sasha, with no time for small girls who don't wear bras. Vera must speak and sing in Russian, bathe in a creek, attend Orthodox services in a downpour. Even her brother the wolf pup ignores her. Still, she doesn't give up. "Camp is O.K.," she writes home gamely, requesting bug spray while reporting that she has no friends yet. "Be Prepared" is a complete delight, from the first sly jokes about the American Girl-ish doll Complicity to Brosgol's evocative artwork, which ranges from droll to wistful to outright lovely. Vera is a heroine for the ages, enduring day after lonely, buggy day without losing her spirit, compassion or love of beauty. Her sincerity is a beacon in the darkest latrine. Her triumphs are subtle and richly deserved. And her struggles are an eloquent reminder that even without outright tragedy, childhood is filled with challenges, cruelties and opportunities for courage. Ivy Aberdeen is another girl of spirit, living with her parents, twin baby brothers and older sister, Layla, in the family home in rural Georgia - until a tornado rips their house away. That's just the beginning of Ashley Herring Blake's middle-grade debut, IVY ABERDEEN 'S LETTER TO THE WORLD (Little, Brown, 307 pp., $17.99; ages 8 to 12). The title alludes to Emily Dickinson's poem addressing a world "that never wrote to me," raising questions about what we withhold from the people closest to us. In the aftermath of the storm, 12-yearold Ivy's best comfort comes from drawing, until she befriends June. Same-sex attraction is rare in middle-grade fiction, so it's gratifying to see the full arc of their relationship as Ivy's feelings move beyond simple friendship. Blake captures all the exhilaration of a first crush without shying away from Ivy's confusion and her worries about acceptance. Blake is adept at revealing how powerfully a misunderstanding can lodge in a child's mind, and Ivy's (mistaken) assumption about how her sister might react to her feelings for a girl adds another layer of tension to a family in crisis. The sisters' relationship is one of the great rewards of this novel that includes a large and vivid cast of secondary characters, who give the story its sense of abundant texture. Set in St. Thomas, Kheryn Callender's debut, HURRICANE CHILD (Scholastic, 211 pp., $16.99; ages 8 to 12), introduces 12-year-old Caroline, who faces storms of her own. Her schoolmates bully her. Her teacher torments her. Her mother disappeared over a year before, and the postcards have stopped coming. A girl turns up, claiming to be Caroline's sister. Her father does not explain. And Caroline sees spirits without knowing what they intend. Caroline is a lively girl who hops off a shared taxi without paying and turns back to grin at the irate driver. But her predicament is bleak. She escapes to the schoolyard only to meet "a half circle" of girls who pelt her with rocks. Caroline's principal offers a dash of warmth and understanding. But adult support is threadbare; her mother is gone and her father "has enough to worry about already." At first, this novel seems to be about self-reliance, and the kind of anger that can help brace a person in terrible circumstances. Caroline, we learn early, won't "cry after a bum smacking." But she is innately loving, as memories of her mother make clear. Her friendship with a classmate, Kalinda, brings the first sign that Caroline's future may brighten. Their connection is intense, but it's only after encountering tourists from a cruise ship - two white women holding hands - that Caroline realizes she "would like to hold Kalinda's hand too." This scene, delicate and straightforward, bears the twin revelations that Caroline is falling for Kalinda, and that Kalinda regards same-sex couples as wrong. Their journey toward understanding is harrowing but rewarding, because of all the dangers in this novel - from hurricanes to hauntings - the greatest by far is isolation. When Caroline risks heartbreak and scorn to tell Kalinda how she feels, most readers will understand why. They will also know why Caroline embarks on a perilous search for her mother. The stakes are high, the revelations are serious and Callender doesn't sugarcoat. But readers who face troubles of their own may recognize Caroline's fierce resolve: Others may be "fine with letting go of people they love," but she is not. It's not a soft or gentle vision; these are not circumstances anyone wants children to face. But Caroline's insistence on love, no matter what, might be just what young readers need to see. NALINI JONES is the author of the story collection "What You Call Winter." She teaches writing at Columbia University.