This spring, my Girl Scout co-leader, Liz Root, and myself, started a book club for our troop of fifth grade girls. I am loving this project because it is so different from book discussion groups that the kids have been divided into at school - all based on reading abilities. This is based on being a member of our troop. That's all. And it is confirming my long held belief that reading well written books for your age group, regardless of a student's reading level, is rewarding. Being able to relate to a book, it's characters, and others who have shared in the experience is what reading is about. "Ida B...and her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World" is worth way more than the 5 AR points that are possible on the Accelerated Reader test.
Why "Ida B..."? Well, because when I googled "Books that deal with cancer for 5th graders" it was recommended over and over again by book reviewers that write of such things. Why google "Books that deal with cancer for 5th graders"? Well, because, our troop is going to participate in the American Cancer Association's local Relay for Life this year and I wanted to make sure that the girls had some relationship with the cause for which they are walking. The other criteria - that it wasn't too Jodi Picoulty (whom I love and hope that it is okay that I just made her name into an adjective) for these girls - I don't want tears and fears - I want hope and determination. And "Ida B..." met that criteria as well.
But this is way more than just a story about cancer (Ida B.'s mother finds a lump and life changes very drastically for a period after that). It is a story about anger at others and circumstance, and ultimately, oneself. And it is about forgiving all of the above. The way that Katherine Hannigan has described Ida's thoughts and feelings are so spot on that as an adult reader, I not only recognized them as my feelings of helplessness at age nine and ten, but also they are true to some of my feelings today. She wrote of the heart and how it can make us feel like we are indestructible, or how we could crumble into nothingness.
I am anxious to hear from our book club what they think of the language of the book and the imagery of Ida B. as she communicates with the trees and brook on her family's property. It very definitely conveyed the idea that we are one with nature and with that comes a responsibility to the land. While the naming and personifying of the trees in the orchard was unusual, it was perfectly Ida B. And wonderfully done.
In the reviews I had read prior to reading the book, there were some comparisons between Ida B. and Junie B. in regard to the main character's voice. While, I can see that the straight forward approach of these strong girl characters is similar, Ida B. is much more insightful to the human condition and her own feelings. Her awareness of her own motives and thoughts make the story much more complex and rewarding than just a story about a brassy little girl.
Loved it! For our book club project with it, the girls will be making cancer awareness pins to distribute to their sponsors. We also have a representative from Relay for Life coming in to talk to the girls - looking forward to a great afternoon!