Newbery Medalist Naylor's (Shiloh) reflective, resonant novel shapes credible portraits of two Kentucky girls participating in a seventh-grade exchange program. Since her parents' house is too cramped, outspoken Ivy June lives nearby with her bighearted grandparents in aremote mountain hollow, with no indoor bathroom or phone. More reserved Catherine attends private school in Lexington, where she shares a rambling home with her family. In thoughtful, articulate journal entries interspersed with third-person chapters, the girls, who spend two weeks together with each family, share their initial expectations and subsequent impressions ("if Mammaw ever saw the stuff they put on our plates, she'd give it to a dog," Ivy June writes about the cafeteria food). The bond between the girls strengthens when they simultaneously experience traumatic events (Ivy June's coal miner grandfather becomes trapped underground; Catherine's mother undergoes emergency heart surgery). Leaving the hollow, Catherine responds to a comment that she'll have a lot to tell when she arrives home: "To tell it's one thing.... To be here-that's something else." Naylor's deft storytelling effortlessly transports readers to her Kentucky settings-and into two unexpectedly similar lives. Ages 9-12. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Heather L. Montgomery
Ivy June Mosley, a seventh-grader from Thunder Creek, Kentucky, prepares for a student exchange program with Catherine Combs from Lexington's Buckner Academy. Spunky Ivy June is nervous, excited, and working hard to manage her family's hesitancy about the program. While in Lexington, Ivy June learns that "city folks" do have indoor plumbing, cell phones, and domestic help, but she also discovers that private school girls deal with the familiar challenges of family, boys, and friendship. When Catherine Combs visits Ivy June, she experiences the life and people of a poor coal-mining community. Written as primarily the story of Ivy June, this novel includes journal entries from both girls. The entries provide a unique change of pace, perspective, and point-of-view. The story has a strong message. The plot is slow until the final fifty pages when Catherine's mother has a sudden medical emergency and Ivy June's Papaw becomes trapped in a mine. Overcoming the strain of these events brings the exchanges together, helping them discover that stereotypes can be broken. The novel is also available as an ebook. Reviewer: Heather L. Montgomery
VOYA - Julie Watkins
On the surface, Ivy June and Catherine are polar opposites. Ivy June lives with her grandparents in a primitive Kentucky mountain community, with no telephone service or indoor bathroom. Her grandfather ekes out a meager living working in the local coal mine. Catherine lives in a beautiful home in Lexington, attends a private all-girls' school, and owns her own cell phone. When the girls' schools choose them to participate in a new seventh grade exchange program, both are excited yet apprehensive about their upcoming adventure. Each is to live with the other's family for two weeks and journal their true feelings about their experience. It seems a daunting task at first, to remain impartial and not judge the other's lifestyle and circumstances. When both find themselves facing an unexpected and unthinkable loss, however, they take to heart the valuable lesson that no matter how different friends may be on the outside, the love and acceptance within them counts most. This charming story about friendship will particularly relate to preteen girls. The characters of Ivy June and Catherine and their evolving relationship to each other and their respective families are both comforting and familiar. Naylor skillfully captures the feeling of the longing Ivy June has to be as close to her parents as Catherine, and the equal longing of Catherine to be part of a true, caring community. It will be a valuable and well-loved addition to any young adult collection. Reviewer: Julie Watkins
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Naylor takes up the issues of crossing class lines with a solid portrayal of Ivy June from rural coal country in Kentucky staying with an upper-middle-class family for two weeks over spring break and the return visit of the daughter of that household, Catherine. The living situations of the seventh graders are at two extremes and yet both girls have the humanity and distinctness that allow them to escape the confines of representing their classes. Make no mistake, this is Ivy June's story, and her hardships and family challenges are front and center in a way that Catherine's own family woes are not. The exchange program set up by the schools is a perfect showcase for looking at the role of wealth and poverty in our assumptions about one another. Ivy June's discomfort at having the wrong shoes is comparable to Catherine's squirming at being unable to wash her hair daily. Neither manages to overcome her own class assumptions. Despite the challenges, this is a warm and tender story of learning to care about the needs of the "other" while gaining appreciation for your own values and strengths.—Carol A. Edwards, Denver Public Library, CO
Ivy June worries that all Lexington girls are rich, arrogant snobs. Catherine fears that all backwoods mountain people lack intelligence, teeth and indoor plumbing. Despite their prejudices, both Kentucky girls volunteer to take part in a seventh-grade school exchange, in which each will spend two weeks as part of the other's family. Ivy June finds Catherine's life relatively easy, with few chores, her own cell phone and a loving family-though she recognizes Catherine's concern for her sick mother. Catherine appreciates the natural beauty and extended community that surround Ivy June, even as she's shocked by the family's poverty. This finely crafted novel, told mostly through Ivy June's eyes, with forays into both girls' journals, depicts a deep friendship growing slowly through understanding. As both girls wait out tragedies at the book's end, they cling to hope-and each other-in a thoroughly real and unaffected way. Naylor depicts Appalachia with sympathetic realism, showing readers the harsh, inescapable realities of coal country and the quiet courage of people doing their best. Highly recommended. (Fiction. 9-14)
From the Publisher
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, June 15, 2009:
“Naylor's deft storytelling effortlessly transports readers to her Kentucky settings—and into two unexpectedly similar lives.”
From the Hardcover edition.
Read an Excerpt
They'll probably be polite--crisp as a soda cracker on the outside, hard as day-old biscuits underneath.
Papaw says not to prejudice my heart before I've got there. But Miss Dixon says to write down what we think now so we can compare it with what we feel after.
In the weeks I've been worrying on what to put in the old yellow suitcase--used to be Jessie's--I've taken out every last thing and tried another. I think that how I look and what I wear shouldn't matter, but I feel that anything I put on my back will stand out like a new pimple.
Shirl says those folks in Lexington are so blue-blooded that even their snot is blue, but the farthest she's been is up to Hazard or down to Harlan, same as me. We could count on our fingers the times we've been more than ten miles out of Thunder Creek, I'll bet.
Ma and Daddy don't much like me going on this exchange program. If I was still living in their house, they wouldn't let me have a stranger from Lexington staying at our place. But since I'm up the hollow at Papaw Mosley's now, they can't very well complain.
Jessie claims it's not me going to Lexington that bothers her; it's Catherine coming here afterward, and what she'll say about us once she goes back. Howard says the same, but he wants to see what Catherine Combs will do when she meets her first copperhead up on the spur.
We were all waiting for Mammaw Mosley's voice on it, because after I come back from Lexington, Catherine will be staying here for two weeks, sleeping with me in my room and eating Mosley food. If Mammaw didn't want the work and worry of another girl around, that would be the end it, because she's already got Grandmommy to care for.
"Ivy June," she says, "this may be your one chance to see what the rest of the world is like." (Not taking Africa and China into account, of course). But if Lexington's all I'm going to get, I figure I'll take it. And I've got to remember to write about it every blessed day, which is part of the program. Catherine has to keep a journal too. We're supposed to sign our names after each writing, even if we never show our journals to anyone, because putting our name on paper helps us own up to how we feel.
The hardest part will be keeping my mind open and my mouth shut.
Ivy June Mosley
It was called spring vacation in other parts of the country but mud vacation here in Thunder Creek. The highway that bypassed the valley was paved, but the narrow roads branching off it were dirt. When the rains came, creeks and roads merged in places to become mud, then soup. All but Coal Mine Road, which was asphalt so that the big trucks didn't get stuck. Twenty or more came down that road in a single day.
Ivy June stared at the big calendar on the wall beneath the classroom clock. There were pictures of Egypt for every month. The picture for March was the pyramids, golden as the sand around them. The only connection to Kentucky that Ivy June could see was that the pyramids must have seemed like mountains to people who lived in the desert. To the people of Cumberland Gap, the huge formations that rose from the earth around them didn't just seem like mountains: they were.
Shirley Gaines was studying the map rolled down in front of the blackboard. The assignment had been to plan the routes that Ivy June would take to Lexington if she went by road, by air, and by water. The students were to name the airport nearest to Thunder Creek, and the series of rivers and roads leading north; to determine which routes were even possible; and to figure the cost of going all three ways.
Ivy June watched in amusement as her friend traced a winding blue water line with her finger. The Middle Fork turned and twisted so that Shirl was practically standing on her head as she followed it. By the time her finger got to Beattyville, she was off course and heading for Gray Hawk.
"Shirley, you missed a turn there somewhere, and you're bound for Tennessee," Miss Dixon said.
And Shirl, ever the cutup, whirled herself around and pretended to paddle as fast as she could in the opposite direction. The class roared.
Best friends, Ivy June and Shirley were sometimes mistaken for sisters. Same high cheekbones; same gray eyes, a bit on the squinty side, Shirl's in particular. Same blondish brown hair, strong arms, and skinny legs.
But it was Ivy June who was going on the student exchange with Buckner Academy near Lexington, and if Shirl was envious, she covered it with antics at the blackboard.
To Ivy June, it seemed as though this last day before mud vacation was a bit more about the exchange program than she would have liked. She was proud, but embarrassed by all the attention. The worst thing you could be here in the mountains was a swelled head. Next to being pregnant without a husband, maybe.
In seventh-grade social studies the topic was stereotypes. Miss Dixon, who taught three subjects, asked if anyone could think of a stereotype for the bluegrass people of Kentucky--the horse people.
"Stuck-up and snotty," said Shirl, again to laughter.
"Rich and spoiled," said Fred Mason. "Everyone drives a Mercedes and owns a swimming pool."
"Ha!" said Donald Coates. "Everyone owns a racetrack!" More laughter.
"Ivy June?" said the teacher. "Can you give us a stereotype?"
"They think their ideas are the best 'cause their granddaddy was . . . was Thomas Charles Harrison Caldwell the Third or something," said Ivy June, knowing she'd have to write this down in her journal. The class laughed some more. Every single thing she thought and said, almost, had to go in that journal. Her only consolation was that Catherine Combs had to do the same.
Miss Dixon only smiled. "Luke," she continued, "what about you?"
And the large boy in the frayed sweatshirt answered, "Everyone's a millionaire and don't even know how to cut his own grass."
"Well, we'll see what Ivy June has to tell us when she gets back," Miss Dixon said, "and of course, we'll get to meet the girl from Buckner Academy ourselves."
Ivy June felt a touch of sympathy for Catherine Combs just then, coming here with all that said against her. But it was Luke's remark that rang in her ears. Last summer, Luke Weller and his brothers had had to get up at five o'clock six days a week to cut grass for a lawn company up north--no vacation at all. And Ivy June truly believed that if anything happened to Papaw while she was away in Lexington, it was because of what she had made happen to Luke Weller's dad.
From the Hardcover edition.