Ivy + Bean One Big Happy Family: Ivy + Bean, Book 11

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Ivy + Bean One Big Happy Family: Ivy + Bean, Book 11 Book Poster Image
Ivy tries to prove she's not "spoiled" in funny, warm tale.

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age 6+
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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Models imaginative free play. Models a parent and a kid reading for pleasure. Shows what yoga poses look like. Shows kids trying to solve their own problems -- often to hilarious effect. 

Positive Messages

Just because you're an only child, it doesn't mean you're "spoiled." Friends stand up for each other. It takes a lot of patience to care for babies and toddlers. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Bean tries to help prove Ivy isn't spoiled, and to make her friend feel better when she's down. Ivy tries to show she's not spoiled by giving away her clothes, toys. Her teacher helps her understand that that's not a good idea. Yet Ivy does give Bean one of her favorite toys out of true friendship. Bean's mom is understanding, tolerant, even when Bean comes up with a crazy idea -- she lets it play out as Bean concludes that her imaginative but flawed scheme won't work.  

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ivy + Bean One Big Happy Family is the 11th book in Annie Barrows' popular Ivy + Bean series about two very different second-grade girls who are classmates, neighbors, and best friends. In this installment, kids at school call Ivy "spoiled" because she's an only child, so she and Bean think up a crazy scheme to get her "unspoiled" -- including getting her a baby sister. As in other books in the series, the story models and celebrates imaginative free play, supportive parents, and a close, loyal, realistic friendship. 

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Kid, 9 years old November 4, 2019

What's the story?

IVY + BEAN ONE BIG HAPPY FAMILY begins when the two girlfriends are helping their teacher clean and decorate their second grade classroom for Open House. After the bell rings and the kids go outside, an exhausted Ivy says, "I've never cleaned that hard in my whole life." Her classmate Vanessa says, "That's because you're an only child. ... Only children never do any work. That's why they're usually spoiled." This gets to Ivy, and throughout the story she comes up with various ways to get "unspoiled," including asking "the gods" to send her a baby sister -- after she sees gods floating in the clouds on a pickle jar with the slogan, "Barney's Extra Sour Dills, Pickles of the Gods." Bean comes up with equally kooky ways to solve Ivy's problem, all the while being supportive of her best friend.

Is it any good?

This funny, lighthearted story shows Ivy and Bean supporting each other as they try to prove that Ivy is not "spoiled" just because she's an only child. Rock-solid elements of grade school drama -- a kid making another kid feel bad because she's different in some way -- combine with wacky, inventive, kid-devised schemes to make Ivy + Bean One Big Happy Family a lively, entertaining read with heart.

Like real kids, the two best friends come up with (and abandon) creative ideas and imaginative plans one after the other, and nothing gets too serious. Yet the underlying message is sweet: You don't have to accept some name someone calls you out of ignorance and stereotyping. It's especially nice to see Bean stand up for Ivy and vouch for her good, generous character to the other kids, amid all their harebrained schemes. As always, Sophie Blackwell's abundant illustrations help move the story along with wit and charm. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the issue of being a "spoiled child" is treated in Ivy + Bean One Big Happy Family. Is it mean to call a kid spoiled? How does it affect Ivy to be called that? How does Bean stand up for her?

  • Is it fair to assume that it's better for kids to have brothers and sisters than to be an only child? Why do kids sometimes put down only children? 

  • How much time do you spend making up games and activities on your own rather than playing video games or watching shows and movies on screens? Are there ways you could try to have more free play and spend more time outside?

Book details

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For kids who love strong girls and books for early readers

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