Five Family Favorites with Annie Barrows, Author of Ivy + Bean
The Children’s Book Review
Published: October 15, 2013
Annie Barrows is the author of many children’s books, including the Ivy + Bean series and The Magic Half, as well as several books for adults, including the bestselling novel The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. She lives in Northern California with her husband and two daughters.
I have two daughters. They’re teenagers now, so I’ve had them for a long time. But I do not now nor have I ever had any idea how to raise them. I never had any parenting theories beyond the vestigial (Feed Them), and I was continually surprised/ impressed/alarmed by moms and dads who did. Every time I heard a parenting theory, I’d think Gee, that sounds good. I should do that. And then I’d forget the crucial elements or I’d miss the perfect opportunity or I’d get distracted, and I’d have to go back to winging it.
The one exception was my Theory of Reading, though the name sounds more august than it was. The Theory of Reading was pretty simple: if one of my kids asked me to read, I did. With a few exceptions (open flames, copious bleeding), I’d drop what I was doing, sit down, and read. I could say that I was demonstrating the value of reading or bonding with my children (both true), but the central motivation was that I liked it. We all liked it. Sure, they enjoyed being able to boss me around, but they really liked the stories. So did I.
Soon after I had my first baby, I realized that I loved kids’ books, and I loved reading them aloud too. I’ve since realized that those books, the hundreds and hundreds of good, bad, and great books that we read together created a culture in our family. They gave us a reservoir of experiences and characteristics to draw upon in our lives and in our understanding of our lives. I think that most of our conversations and attitudes contain some echo of our reading. Take, for example, pigs. There are genuine, real pigs we have had experiences with, at fairs, on farms. From these pigs, we know that pigs don’t smell very nice and make bizarre farting noises and sleep a lot. We know that they have eyelashes and that you can see their skin through their hairs. Some are very big indeed. Real pigs have taught us these things. But fictional pigs have taught us to like them. We have genial feelings about pigs because of Wilbur and a nameless pig who disturbs a camping trip in Alfie Goes Camping, among others.
There are a lot of books under our collective belt, and there are plenty that we quote and reference frequently, but some books have become such a part of our daily lives that they are really members of the family. Among these are:
We laugh. We laugh and laugh and laugh till our noses run and tears spurt from our eyeballs. But in addition to making us laugh, the Calvin and Hobbes books reinforce one of our foundational beliefs: kids know more than grownups do.
All Ages | Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing, Reprint | November 13, 2012
Alfie is a regular 4-year-old boy, and the many books about him tell about regular four-year-old adventures in an utterly charming and engrossing way. Alfie and his sister, Annie Rose, make all of us feel cozy and validated. The pictures are wonderful, especially because the same belongings appear again and again, until they are as well-loved by readers as they obviously are by Alfie.
Ages 3-6 | Publisher: Red Fox; New edition | September 13, 1994
By Peter Spier
This never-sufficiently-to-be-looked-at book has been in print for over 30 years, and it will probably continue to be in print forever. It contains scores, maybe hundreds, of drawings of people—their faces, their clothes, their homes, their pets, their clothes, their holidays, their customs—around the world. Hours of my life have been spent inspecting this book with my children.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Doubleday Books for Young Readers | April 1, 1988
I think this is a (maybe even the) great American novel, in part because of its belief in honorable story-telling. But never mind that—my kids were enthralled by it. In some ways, it depicts a child’s dream world, where you make your own house, your own food, your own clothes, and your own fun, with no interference from remote authorities or complex systems.
And psst! Grownups! These books are really great when your kids are whining about toys. You can say sternly, “Laura Ingalls got a penny and piece of candy for Christmas and she was grateful.”
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Harper Collins, Reprint | September 28, 2010
A fabulous instructional tale about obeying the letter of the law but not the spirit, illustrated in silhouettes. The most important lesson my children seem to have learned from this book is that what grownup don’t know won’t hurt them.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers | March 31, 1993
Find out more about Annie Barrows, visit: anniebarrows.com
Read our 2011 interview with Annie Barrows
Ivy + Bean Take the Case: Book 10, Available Now!
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