1) Cover, front and back. (I’ll be as judgy as I want, thank you very much.)
2) Thickness of book. (And if the book is thick, will I feel smart by checking it out, or –deep down– will I know I’m just an incompetent phony?)
3) First four pages of book. (That’s all you get. I have a short library-previewing attention span.)
My latest greatest book passed all three tests, and it’s called Ida B. …and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World. Who wouldn’t want to read a book like that? From the back of the book:
This is what I have for lunch every single day: peanut butter on one slice of bread, milk, and an apple, preferably a McIntosh because they’re tangy with a thin skin, which Daddy says resembles me at times.
“Don’t you want to try something different, Ida B?” Daddy will say.
Well, by lunchtime I’m wide awake and I’ve already been busy doing my chores and learning and having some fun. I’ve got a list of things that I can’t wait to do in the afternoon, my head is filled to the rim with interesting ideas and plans, and that’s exactly how I want it to stay.
“There are too many things to think about in this world besides what I’m going to have for lunch, Daddy,” I say, and he looks at me like I am a true mystery.
Ida B Applewood swoops her readers into her world, where everything is exciting and interesting and half the fun of doing things is making plans for them first. She’s imaginative, insightful, and very serious about having fun. She makes stick rafts and sends them down her creek with notes asking people to write back and answer the important questions–“If this raft reaches the ocean, will you please let us know? Thank you very much.” And includes her address. She gets tired of washing her face so she tries leaving the soap on permanently. Every one of the apple trees in her orchard has a name and a personality.
I like this girl.
But then, things happen in Ida B’s life that she could not have planned for. Her family starts going through some hard times, and Ida has to go to public school, which she hates. Her parents make decisions about her life that feel an awful lot like betrayal. These problems are waaay too big for Ida to plan for. Ida B’s only solution is to make her heart small, and hard, and black. And getting back to having fun and saving the world is going to be tough to do.
I loved this book (by Katherine Hannigan) because Ida B is so real, so good at telling us about problems from a kid’s point of view. It’s so easy for me to say, But Ida B, it’s gonna be okay–but when I was Ida B’s size, her problems would have looked absolutely huge to me. Who knows if it’s really gonna be okay?
You’ll just have to read it yourself.