It's 1949 and times are hard on the Nevada ranch where Ivy's parents work. Her best friend Annie has gone off to her annual (and expensive) summer camp in Maine and the fight they had before she left makes Ivy wonder if she has a best friend anymore. It's going to be a long summer with no one but troublemaker Billy Joe around. Then Ivy gets an idea to heal her friendship and her parents suggest a way she can make some money from her love of animals. Soon, she's caring for horses, training a dog for one of the ranch guests, and seeing a whole new future ahead. But when Billy Joe does something even more dangerous than usual and Annie returns for school, will Ivy ever have friends again?
LaMarche's soft illustrations are the perfect touches to this gentle, hopeful story. Ivy's struggles with friendship and her love of animals will resonate with a lot of kids, especially those living in rural areas where money is tight. I especially liked the way Wells lightly interweaves historical details (cost of things, dates, people only being able to get divorces in Nevada) into the story but keeps the focus on Ivy and her family. The story is firmly realistic; although there's drama with the animals (and Ivy's friends) there's no climactic finale when she gets all the money she needs and Annie comes back to be her friend. The gap between wealthy Annie and poor Ivy isn't simply washed away by their friendship for each other, but Ivy learns to cope with the changes in herself and her friends and find joy in her life and the animals she loves.
Verdict: Kids who love animals and historical fiction will be big fans of this simple but heartfelt story. It's not a daunting length (only 200 pages) and I'd especially recommend it for kids who prefer working with animals and being outdoors to sitting down with a book; Ivy's practical approach to life and the realistic illustrations of animals and the accidents that befall them will make this a popular title.
ISBN: 9780763653521; Published 2013 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Added to order list