Ida B by Katherine Hannigan
Reviewed by Margo Dill, www.margodill.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Middle-grade novel, contemporary, realistic fiction
Fourth-grade girl as main character
Rating: The imagery, voice, and creativity in this book are absolutely amazing!
Short, short summary: Ida B. has a great life–she has trees and a brook for friends, and she is homeschooled by her adoring, loving parents because her kindergarten experience was not so great. However, Ida B.’s life is turned upside down when her mom discovers she has cancer. Because her daddy has to do all the farm work and her mom is too tired to teach her, Ida B. must go to school, and she doesn’t want to. To solve her problem, she decides she will be miserable at school and make her heart cold no matter what. She will show no excitement at home and just be pretty much unbearable to everyone. Things get worse when her father tells her that they have to sell some of the land with the apple trees on it because they need the money. Ida really gets angry then. But thanks to constant love from her parents and a wise teacher, Ida’s heart starts to melt. Ida works hard to stay mad and angry and be mean, but guilt tugs at her insides until she makes some smart decisions that change her life for the better.
So, what do I do with this book?
1. This is a great read-aloud. At first, students may think it is strange how Ida B. names the trees, talks to them, and they talk back to her. But, you can use this as a teaching tool in two different ways. First, you can talk about personification and how authors use it as a literary technique when they write. You can also use it to discuss with your students or your child (or have them write about it in a journal) when they talk to objects or animals that can’t talk back to them and why they do it. For example, I always talk to my dogs, and I even say things in a different voice that I think they may be saying back to me. When I am sad, I talk to my dogs and tell them what is wrong. It makes me feel better, and I know they listen to me because they always give me kisses when I am finished.
2. Ida B. uses a lot of similies, metaphors, and exaggerations when she talks. Ask students to find these in the text, write them down, and explain what they mean. Why does Katherine Hannigan use these images when Ida is telling the story instead of just saying what she means? Ask students if they can include imagery like this when they write stories.
3. Cancer is a disease that has probably touched the lives of some, if not most, of your students. If they haven’t been touched by cancer, then they may have family members with other serious illnesses such as heart disease or diabetes. This topic of cancer in the book can be upsetting to some students, especially if it has touched their lives. Talk to your students or your child about survival rates and modern medicine. Answer any questions they may have about cancer and their fears associated with the disease. Ask students to write about their feelings in a journal entry. Ask them to explain why Ida acts the mean way she does for a while. Do they understand her behavior? How could they help her?
If you have used this book with your child or in your classroom, please leave a comment here and let us know how it went!
If you have a suggestion of a book for me to read and review, please email email@example.com or leave a comment here.
(photo by fauxto_digit www.flickr.com)