The Education of Ivy Blake

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
The Education of Ivy Blake Book Poster Image
Strong Prairie Evers sequel focuses on Ivy.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

A few Cherokee vocabulary words. Some of the steps involved in making a movie.

Positive Messages

You're not nothing, no matter what your background is. With hard work and determination, you can do anything you want. Strong bonds of friendship can last through big changes in your life.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ivy's a terrific model of self-determination; she decides not to let others define who she is or prevent her from achieving her goals. She's very serious about studying, wants to go to college, and is a talented artist. She learns to overcome her shame about her background and circumstances and accept the love and support of her friends. Ivy's mother has a quick temper and sometimes becomes violent. She smokes (but is trying to quit), drinks heavily, and thinks being in a bad relationship is better than being alone. Other adults, including Ivy's teacher, are loving, supportive, and wise.

Violence

A past traumatic event involving a shooting is mentioned a few times. Ivy's mother throws things, damages property, and hits an adult who then has to be hospitalized. There are consequences for her actions, including some time in jail.

Sex

A pregnant woman has a scare, and "ordinary spotting" is mentioned.

Language

An adult wears a T-shirt that says "Hot S--t," with the dashes, not the word. An adult says "shee-ite" (for "s--t") "instead of the real word."

Consumerism

A few car makes and food products establish mood or character. Nicorette.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Ivy's mother drinks heavily and smokes (but is trying to quit).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Education of Ivy Blake is a sequel to the well-received and popular Prairie EversThe focus shifts to follow Ivy, and Prairie and her family are present but take a back seat to Ivy and her relationship with her mother. A past traumatic event involving a shooting is revisited in more detail, though still mainly through vague memories. Like Prairie, Ivy's a strong, admirable girl. There are positive messages about family and friendship, and Ivy's more about overcoming the past, deciding for yourself who you are, and reaching your goals through hard work and determination. Ivy's mother drinks heavily and smokes. She also lashes out violently, mostly damaging property, but Ivy learns she also hit someone hard enough to land that person in the hospital. A pregnant woman has a scare, and "ordinary spotting" is mentioned.

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What's the story?

Ivy's been happy living with her best friend Prairie Evers' bustling, adorably oddball family. But now that her mother's back, Ivy can't pass up the chance to live with her again and try to form a more solid bond. Ivy hopes that if she keeps acting like everything's fine, eventually it will be. The damage her mother did and her current embarrassing outbursts make Ivy want to hide from everyone, even Prairie. Ivy learns about a local film contest and decides to put her artistic talents to the test by making her own movie and entering the contest. When Ivy realizes she really is able to do amazing things on her own, she finds the courage to confront her mother and insist that her own happiness counts too.

Is it any good?

In this Prairie Evers sequel, author Ellen Airgood continues to demonstrate strong writing skills as she sharpens her focus on Ivy. Ivy's inner thoughts and feelings are complicated, but Airgood gracefully guides the reader through them all. Kids will relate to and admire Ivy. Even when her choices aren't easy to understand, she's easy to root for. Familiar, beloved characters return, and new characters are colorful and intriguing.

THE EDUCATION OF IVY BLAKE is not quite the breath of fresh air that Prairie Evers is, but the thought-provoking, strong girl heroine is a worthy successor.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about sequels. Why did the author chose to tell Ivy's story this time?

  • Ivy loves and misses living with the Evers family. Why doesn't she want to go back to live with them?

  • What makes Ms. Mackenzie such a great teacher? Have you ever had a teacher like her? Who's your favorite teacher, and why?

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