Faith, Hope and Ivy June

Faith, Hope and Ivy June by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Even though they both live in Kentucy, Ivy June and Catherine live very different lives.  Through a school student exchange program, now they each have a chance to see how other people live.  Ivy June lives in a small cabin in the hills by Thunder Creek with her grandparents because her parents’ home was too crowded.  They don’t have an indoor bathroom but they do have an incredible view of the entire mountain just a short walk away.  Catherine lives with her family in Lexington.  She attends a private school, wears designer clothes, and has more than one indoor bathroom.  On the surface the two girls will have nothing in common but when tragedy strikes, all differences are forgotten.

Naylor has created a story of two girls who have a chance to be friends but may not be able to see past their differences to reach that point.  There are twists and turns in their relationship with one another that refreshingly have nothing to do with their economic status.  Naylor also does an admirable job of making the harrowing job of coal mining real to young readers.  It is a joy to read a book with a heroine like Ivy June who is complicated and refreshingly unashamed of her poor upbringing.  It is equally wonderful to find a wealthy girl like Catherine who faces challenges when staying with Ivy June but remains eager to see what her life is really like.  Naylor never strays near stereotypes, instead focusing on the similarities of the two girls even when they can’t see it themselves. 

A complex tale of friendship and connection, this book will have readers questioning what stereotypes they believe in.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.