Peggy Dymond Leavey's previous books include Sky Lake Summer, The Deep End Gang, and The Path Through the Trees, all of which were nominated for the Silver Birch Award. Recently, she published Growing Up Ivy, Mary Pickford, and Laura Secord. Peggy lives in Trenton, Ontario.
Growing Up Ivy
Commended for the 2011 Best Books for Kids and Teens
Living in grim Depression-era Toronto with her actress mother, Frannie, Ivy Chalmers has never met her father. In 1931, Frannie sends twelve-year-old Ivy to stay with her paternal grandmother in Larkin, Ontario, while she seeks stardom in New York City. When Ivy’s father, Alva, arrives unexpectedly in Larkin, he turns out not to be the Prince Charming she imagined, but an illiterate peddler. Rescuing Ivy from her uncompromising grandmother, Alva takes her with him for the summer, wandering the countryside by horse-drawn caravan, selling shoes.
Back in Larkin at summer’s end, Ivy meets teenager Charlie Bayliss, orphaned as an infant and raised by his aunt on a farm outside town. Ivy has a flair for writing and boundless imagination, while Charlie loves baseball and loathes farming. Unknown to both of them, though, is a secret connection they share. When the final pieces of the puzzle of their lives fall into place, nothing will ever be the same.
Ivy is a convincing character, strong though damaged, and depicted without sentimentality. The Depression-era setting is similarly convincing, crisp in its particulars. Ivy eventually connects with her father, and they spend the summer on the road together in a caravan, peddling shoes. The cumulative portrait of rural Ontario that emerges from this doomed enterprise feels like the real deal.
Peggy Dymond Leavey has written an engaging and moving story of a likable, imaginative girl. I kept reading late into the night, empathizing with Ivy and wanting to know what happened next. The realities of the Great Depression are brought to life with authentic, well-researched details.
Ivy is not the only wonderful character in this fine book, but this is definitely her story. The writing is commendable, the characters lively and likeable, the setting strong and the sense of community vibrant. I read late into the night wanting to know what would happen to these people that I had come to like so much. I enjoyed every page and recommend it highly. It would make a great read in an intermediate classroom and is certain to encourage discussion of the hard times that so many faced in the 1930s.
Setting in small-town Ontario during the Great Depression, Growing Up Ivy is a nice story for readers from Grade 6.
Leavey deserves congratulations for recognizing the gem of a good story when she came across it, and praise for making something of it.