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The Education of Ivy Blake

ON SALE JUNE 9, 2015

In this uplifting companion to Prairie Evers, shy, introverted Ivy must find her footing when her reckless mom turns her world upside down.
Ivy has loved living with her best friend, Prairie, and being part of Prairie’s lively, happy family. But now Ivy’s mom has decided to take her back. Ivy tries to pretend everything is fine, but her mom’s neglect and embarrassing public tantrums often make Ivy feel ashamed and alone. Fortunately, Ivy is able to find solace in art, in movies, and from the pleasure she finds in observing and appreciating life’s small, beautiful moments. And when things with her mom reach the tipping point, this ability gives her the strength and power to push on and shape her own future.

Advance Praise:

“Doesn’t shy away from Ivy’s emotional turmoil . . . quietly satisfying. An uplifting coming-of-age story that foregrounds both the loss and the luster involved in creating an identity all one’s own.” Kirkus Reviews

School Library Journal:
★ Gr 4–6—Eleven-year-old Ivy Blake has spent most of a wonderful year with the Evers family. She loves Mom, Dad, Grammy, and especially her best friend, Prairie, and she knows that they love her too, but she can't quite feel like she belongs with them. When her mother asks Ivy to come back to live with her, the girl is conflicted but decides to go. Living with her mother again isn't easy—it means a new school, conflicting loyalties, borderline neglect, and the constant strain of her mother's negative outlook and dangerously uncertain temper. Ivy copes and creates through her sketchbook; drawing and writing about her days, the people she loves, and her dreams of making movies. Having dealt with a lot of tough situations in her short life, Ivy is mature and self-aware, but also realistically confused and emotionally awkward. As the title suggests, Ivy's character development is the core of the story, and its strength is Ivy's need to find her own identity and figure her problems out herself. Even the people who love her dearly and believe in her can't give her the answers—she has to find out for herself who she is and who she wants to be. With the exception of Ivy's mother, who is difficult but not a caricature, the people in Ivy's world are almost impossibly warm, intuitive, creative, and kind. This leaves the ending more in the realm of wish fulfillment than harsh reality, but Ivy's insistence on relying on herself ensures that readers will feel that she's earned it. Like Anne of Green Gables and many other neglected creative girls before her, Ivy is irresistible, and readers will be rooting for her all the way. VERDICT A thoughtful and sweet story about finding the family you need in order to be your best self.—Katya Schapiro, Brooklyn Public Library

Kirkus Reviews (full review):
It seems like 11-year-old Ivy Blake's dreams are coming true when she is reunited with her mother, but she quickly realizes that this is not the happy ending she's been yearning for. Ivy was first introduced as Prairie's best friend in Prairie Evers (2012), but readers don't need to have read that volume to enjoy this installment of Ivy's story. When Ivy's mother comes to collect her from the Evers' home, where she's been staying, Ivy has high hopes. But soon her mother's bad judgment and temper return in full force, and Ivy is scared, lonely, and ashamed to tell the Evers family what's happening. Still, Ivy keeps a level head as she forges onward, finding new friends and a means of self-expression by cultivating a newfound love of moviemaking. In the end, Ivy will have to choose between the life her mother wants for her and the life she is building for herself. Because this contemplative tale is character- rather than plot-driven and doesn't shy away from Ivy's emotional turmoil, it can feel somewhat dispiriting in places. Persistent readers, though, will become invested in Ivy and ultimately find her story quietly satisfying. An uplifting coming-of-age story that foregrounds both the loss and the luster involved in creating an identity all one's own. (Fiction. 9-12)