Book Review: Faith, Hope, & Ivy June

Faith, Hope, and Ivy June
By: Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Narrated By: Karen White
Published By: Listening Library
Publication Date: June 2009
Audio Length: 6 hours, 21 minutes
Source: Library
Audience: Middle Grades/Young Adult - Contemporary, Southern Fiction

On the Story & Writing:

I love novels that have a southern setting, but I harbor a soft spot for those set in the Appalachian region. I was perusing the audiobook shelves at the library looking for a new one to take home when I stumbled upon this one. I had never heard of the novel or the author, but I decided to take a chance when I realized it was set in Kentucky. Furthermore, I was intrigued by the synopsis. The story focuses on two 7th graders, Ivy June and Catherine, who are involved in a student exchange program.

Ivy June is from a small mountain town in Kentucky called Thunder Creek. She has a large family and lives with her grandparents. Her life provides a glimpse into what life is like for those in rural Kentucky. In addition, her grandfather is a coal miner. I found this aspect of the novel to be interesting because I don't know much about this profession aside from the fact that it is extremely dangerous. I have often wondered why men would do a job that can result in illness, injury, and death so easily. Ivy June's grandfather explains that it didn't have many options that would pay as well. His sense of familial responsibility is admirable and realistic. I found that the portrayal of the Mosely family, in general, was very true to the experience of many who live and work in the Appalachians.

Catherine couldn't be more different than Ivy June. She lives in Lexington, a city known for it's wealth and horse farms. Catherine has everything she could ever want or need; she doesn't have to save money and doesn't have to do chores. Her family has a housekeeper to help out with the domestic duties. 

Both girls sign up to be part of the exchange process to satisfy their curiosity and inquisitive minds. I loved watching the girls interact and take stock of the world around them. Each of them ends up realizing how much she has to be thankful for while learning about a new way of living. Readers not only find out what's going on from the main narration, but also from the journal entries of both girls. I was fascinated as I listened to the girls' original notions about one another and how those views changed after living in a new place for two weeks. The experience was invaluable for them both and shed some light on long held stereotypes.

This novel allows for reflection and thought on how stereotypes influence interactions with others. There are also moments when you realize that regardless of where we're from and how much money we have, there are so many commonalities in life. I think it's a highly thought provoking novel that young readers will appreciate. There are so many conversations that could be had based on the ideas brought to light in this book.

At it's heart, this is a novel about friendship. You just might find that it can blossom between even the most unlikely of pairs.

On the Audio:

Karen White did a nice job narrating both Ivy June and Catherine. I can't say if the accents were truly spot on as I have never spent a lot of time in Kentucky. I might suggest reading this one for yourself - if only to get  to read the girls' journal entries for yourself.

One Last Gripe: I found myself daydreaming during some of the slower parts. I don't think this would have happened as easily if I had been reading it myself.

My Favorite Thing About This Book: Ivy June's grandparents reminded me of my own.

First Sentence: They'll probably be polite - crisp as a soda cracker on the outside, hard as day-old biscuits underneath.

Favorite Character: Ivy June

Least Favorite Character: Rosemary

When push comes to shove, two Kentucky girls find strength in each other.
Ivy June Mosely and Catherine Combs, two girls from different parts of Kentucky, are participating in the first seventh-grade student exchange program between their schools. The girls will stay at each other’s homes, attend school together, and record their experience in their journals. Catherine and her family have a beautiful home with plenty of space. Since Ivy June’s house is crowded, she lives with her grandparents. Her Pappaw works in the coal mines supporting four generations of kinfolk. Ivy June can’t wait until he leaves that mine forever and retires. As the girls get closer, they discover they’re more alike than different, especially when they face the terror of not knowing what’s happening to those they love most.


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