Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World Book Poster Image
First stirrings of girl's same-sex crush gently handled.

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age 10+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

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.

Positive Messages

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 & Representations

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

Tornado in the opening scenes. None of the family members are harmed, but their house is completely destroyed.

Sex

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.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What 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.

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Kid, 10 years old September 5, 2018

Explains difficult topics in a simple way in tween-targeted book

Ivy Aberdeen’s letter to the world explores sometimes hard to talk about topics, including sexuality and homelessness, because many families in the town are dis... Continue reading

What's the story?

At the start of IVY ABERDEEN'S LETTER TO THE WORLD, Ivy's family becomes homeless when a fierce tornado levels their house. At the temporary shelter, Ivy makes a new friend, June, and also loses her beloved notebook, in which she's drawn a series of revealing pictures of herself holding hands with a dark-haired girl, whose identity is mysterious even to Ivy. Ivy already has a best friend, Taryn, who's started talking about boys, but Ivy isn't feeling it. Could her feelings about June be like the ones Taryn feels? Questions swirl. Who found Ivy's notebook, and why are they leaving notes about it in Ivy's locker? Can Ivy tell June how she feels? Will June like Ivy back? And will Ivy's family manage to stick together and survive until they can rebuild their home?

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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the crush in Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World. Have you had crushes? Have they surprised you in any way? Do you think the people you've crushed on have similar feelings about you? Do your crushes make you act differently around people?

  • Do you have people you can talk to about your feelings, the way Ivy talks to Robin, or the way she freely expresses her feelings when she answers the notes in her locker? Why do you think she's kept her feelings secret?

  • Has your family ever experienced challenges or stresses that make them act differently? Do you ever feel ignored or overlooked in your family?

Book details

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