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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Describes what a tornado sounds like, how it moves and affects what's in its way. Emergency shelter, home insurance. Girls talk about Emily Dickinson; title of book references line in one of her poems. Types of art supplies: pencils, brushes.
You can guard your feelings until you feel safe expressing them. You can express your feelings in your art. There are often caring adults you can talk to who will help you tease out your feelings and experiences. Sometimes people love you even when they're too stressed to express it. If you're questioning your sexuality, you don't have to have all the answers immediately. You can get through challenging times "because you're loved."
Positive Role Models
Ivy's friends, the adults in her world talk freely about feelings, offer gentle guidance and support. Though her parents and older sister are distracted by dire circumstances, they clearly love her. Robin, the African American who runs the inn, is in a loving relationship with and engaged to a woman. When she sees Ivy's distressed, she talks to her, gently draws out her feelings. When Ivy can't yet express her feelings verbally, she does in her art. Gigi, Ivy's sister's best friend, was seen kissing a girl in her car; is confidently exploring her sexuality. Townspeople work together to help families displaced after the tornado. One character had leukemia, revels in her newfound health.
Violence & Scariness
Tornado in the opening scenes. None of the family members are harmed, but their house is completely destroyed.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Female main character develops first crush on a girl. The first stirrings of lesbian identity are gently handled. Ivy gets butterflies when she thinks about June, and fantasizes about holding her hand, slow dancing at the school dance. Older sister's high school friend was seen kissing a girl in her car.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World, by Ashley Herring Blake, successfully twines a few stories in one. When Ivy's 12, her family's home gets leveled by a tornado, putting severe stresses on her otherwise tight, loving family. In the temporary shelter, Ivy makes a new friend, June, and discovers she's developing a crush on her. The first stirrings of her lesbian identity are gently handled, as she fantasizes about holding June‘s hand and slow dancing at the school dance. Ivy's lucky to have understanding guides: Her older sister's best friend and the woman who puts them up while they're homeless are both lesbians. Preteens who are gay or beginning to question their sexual identities will see themselves and their feelings reflected. This sensitive and compelling story also touches on middle children and feeling overlooked when new babies arrive, and can be enjoyed by a wide variety of readers.
Is It Any Good?
This lovely, reassuring book manages to be both a dramatic story of a family stressed and challenged by a natural disaster and a sensitive exploration of the beginnings of same-sex love. Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World explores both LGBTQ themes and universally human themes of family, first love, and navigating life's unexpected challenges.
The LGBTQ strands are gentle. When other girls get giggly about their preteen crushes, Ivy has glimmers that she's different, but the strength of her new crush on June takes her by surprise. Author Ashley Herring Blake gives Ivy wise friends and adults to talk to, who support her and help her tease out and express her feelings. No one imposes anything on her either way, and Robin, the older lesbian who puts up the family in her inn, counsels Ivy that she doesn't need to know all the answers, be sure about anything, or label herself prematurely, providing Ivy with a comfortable space to question. Though the real world may not always be as safe and supportive as this fictional world, the book provides a safe place to explore thoughts about sexuality and about coming of age in general.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.