Ivy and the Meanstalk by Dawn Lairamore
Holiday House, 2011
hardcover, 227 pages. Juvenile Fiction.
Having saved her kingdom from the dastardly designs of a scheming prince in Ivy’s Ever After, fourteen-year-old Princess Ivy and her dragon friend, Eldridge, have little time to rest on their laurels, for Ardendale is once again being threatened. Many years ago a magical harp and a hen who laid golden eggs were stolen by a youth named Jack. The rightful owner, a surly giantess who hasn’t slept a wink since the thefts, needs her harp back to cure her insomnia or Ardendale will suffer an unspeakable fate! So Ivy and Eldridge set off on another fairy-tale-inspired adventure: a quest for the magical harp that takes them across the sea, into the fiery depths of a magnificent golden kingdom, and high into the clouds where a black castle looms at the top of a vicious, man-eating meanstalk. ~jacket copy.
Impressed with Dawn Lairamore’s debut Ivy’s Ever After*, I was excited to read the recent release of its sequel Ivy and the Meanstalk. Fans of the first will not be disappointed to find that Ivy and Eldridge have returned in fine, independent form; as does the author.
The story begins with the intention to remind reader’s of what went on in Ivy’s Ever After while establishing the beginnings of a new adventure. If you’ve read the first novel recently and/or the events are fresh in your mind, the first chapters of Ivy and the Meanstalk will feel a bit beleaguered, no matter how sensitive the author was to alternate present action/dialog with reestablishing the setting/story. Soon enough, however, the adventure is well under way. A meanstalk sprouts and a sleepless giantess is on a rampage. Jack should not have stolen that harp. Nor should Ivy’s Fairy Godmother have played a part in it—or should she have? Sometimes the most noble intention/action has unforeseen consequences.
Ivy would resolve old hurts/wrongs and rescue her kingdom from certain destruction. With Eldridge (the dragon) and Owen (the stable boy) with her, she travels to a fantastical golden kingdom of all too self-absorbed royalty who see no reason to help her. Desperate times make for desperate measures, but it all works out, because the three from Ardendale are not the only heroes in this story. It really does take more than one to avoid certain disaster (on multiple occasions) in Ivy and the Meanstalk. If it doesn’t mean one using their skills to aid the other, it might mean one defending another’s existence. Friendship is of vital importance to the novel and its adventure.
There are a few nice lessons** to glean from Ivy and the Meanstalk alongside ‘sometimes the most noble intention/action may have consequences;’ ‘acknowledge someone’s suffering, learn some grace;’ and ‘helping/defending a friend is important.’ It is good to have fun. Adventures and frivolity have their advantages, but an education is just as vital—it helps in so many ways. (141, 153.) Ivy learns that shirking some of her responsibilities (book work) could have terrible consequences, the kind that could endanger those for whom she cares the most. I like the reminder that getting your rest is important. Imagine the irrational creature you could become if you don’t get your sleep (or allow a parent theirs). “I’m not usually like this, you see, but I get a little cranky without sleep”~Largessa (219).
The romantic turn in Ivy’s Ever After blossoms a bit more between Ivy and Owen, however it is still in the blushing stages of noticing the other, and of deepening friendship. A royal and a stable boy, how might this unfold… It is a sweet part of the novel that doesn’t get in the way of the reader continuing to witness a strong female character coming into her own.
Ivy and the Meanstalk is an especially great read for young female readers ready to stretch out into novels after the slimmer chapter books/series. Ages 7-10 (even up to 12). This would be a good read-aloud. In Ivy and the Meanstalk, Dawn Lairamore creates a wonderful story out of an old familiar with a great sense of humor and some very courageous characters. She is a must-read author for the grade school set.
*My review of Lairamore’s Ivy’s Ever After (Holiday House, 2010).
**Ivy isn’t message-y, the ‘lessons’ are a natural result of plot/themes.