Comment: Ida B lives
an idyllic life on her parents farm where she is
home schooled, leaving her with plenty of time
to spend with her own thoughts and to talk with
her friends, the apple trees in the orchard.
However, her apparently secure world is
undermined when her mother undergoes treatment
While her mother is in hospital there is no one at home to look after her so Ida must start attending 4th grade at the local school (which she is determined not to enjoy); in addition, financial pressures cause the family to sell off part of their land, including an orchard that she's particularly fond of. Ida B, convinced that she can no longer trust anyone, especially not her parents who, in her eyes, have let her down, hardens her heart to the kind overtures of her parents, teachers and potential new friends and, in her own mind, declares war on everyone, including herself.
Of course, all comes right in the end - Ida B cannot keep up her defenses for ever, and slowly starts to find her way out of the black hole she's put herself into, in order to become reconciled with herself and those around her.
The media reviews for Ida B are overwhelmingly positive. Publishers Weekly says 'Hannigan shows a remarkable understanding of a stubborn child's perspective in her honest, poignant portrayal of loss and rebirth'; Children's Literature describes it as a 'beautifully told first novel filled with remarkable characters'; and Kirkus Reviews describes it as 'a poignant, affirming and often funny debut.'
Personally, I have to say that I found the character of Ida B profoundly irritating and more than a little self-centered, and her parent's decision to bring her up in a such a totally sheltered environment difficult to understand - to the point that my personal feelings somewhat clouded my ability to appreciate the finer qualities of the story that others praise. If I was Ida B's mother I would have given her a good talking to around the end of chapter 5 and told her to pull herself together; but luckily for Ida B, I'm not! The story did not resonate with either of our children (then 10 and 12) but that is just three people's opinions, versus a wealth of critical acclaim!
As always, you don't have to take my opinion, or anyone else's for that matter, for granted. Instead you can read the first two chapters for yourself, exclusively at BookBrowse. In addition you'll find a range of media reviews, a reading guide and an interview with first time author, Katherine Hannigan.
This review is from the January 4, 2007 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.
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