Ever since a most excellent student assistant of mine at a Middle School mentioned that Phyllis Reynolds Naylor was her favorite author, I have always paid special attention to this talented and most prolific writer. And she never fails to engage. Faith Hope and Ivy June is the latest that I read and it was no exception.
Two girls, one from the poorest section of the hills of Kentucky and one from the affluent city of Lexington, are chosen to be exchange visitors to each other's schools and families for two weeks each during the spring. The purpose is to examine preconceived ideas about communities with such differences and to promote understanding through spending time together and then reporting back. Could this be a borrowed idea from "Wife Swap"?
Although the notion might seem contrived and a set up for a rescue for the struggling coal mining community (Appalachian girl becomes a singing star or good folks of Lexington turn Thunder Creek into thriving craftsman village) the girls are real seventh graders with much in common and some real family and social life worries. And Naylor carries the cliffhanging plot to the very last page along with some excellent insights into the struggles as well as the talents and strengths of a mountain community living in survival ways which few of our children might ever imagine.
So many times I have recommended Naylor to students. There is is the Alice series which will keep the girls who like to follow a girl from grade school until high school. There is The Fear Place for nail biting adventure. There is the Newbery Award-winning Shiloh about a dog rescue and its two sequels. Naylor always offers a good story along with real young people solving real problems. Although published in 2009, Faith, Hope and Ivy June was a nominated book for the Middle School/Junior High California Young Reader Medal Award for 2013. This book would be an excellent choice for family or classroom read-aloud or young people's book discussion group. And of course it stands on its own with some old fashioned escape along with cultural understanding.
Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's website is accessed through her Alice blog here.