Beloved duo Ivy and Bean is back, and they're eager to solve some mysteries. Author Annie Barrows introduces Ivy and Bean Take the Case, the latest in her popular series.
As anyone who’s read an Ivy and Bean book can probably tell, I was (and am) a younger sister. My sister is two years older than I am, which means that I spent a lot of time moping on the sidelines while she did something cool like tying her shoelaces or going to nursery school. There were many bitter blows in my youth, but the bitterest of all was watching her read. She read two full years before I could, and she did it with ostentatious pleasure. Nancy Drew book after Nancy Drew book, she tossed them off like martinis. She even set up a stack of them by the sofa, so she could pick up a new one as soon as she was done with the old one.
Harumph. I glared at her from the corner, plotting my future reading career. I’d show her! I’d read every Nancy Drew book, and I’d read them faster than she did! I’d read em all in a week! Well, maybe a month. But still.
In time, I did learn to read, and I put my plot into action. I assembled an impressive stack of Nancy Drews, with their yellow spines aligned, and I sat down on the couch and began to read.
After a half-hour of laborious reading, I jumped up from the couch, whisked out the door, and looked up and down our quiet street. I was hoping for a distraught dowager or a shadowy figure flitting from tree to tree, but I would have settled for a sudden cloudburst that forced me to seek shelter in a broken-down bungalow (whatever that was). Instead, I got camellia bushes, someone practicing the piano nearby, the next-door dog barking, and not one thing I hadn’t seen thousands of times before. Life was such a disappointment.
As I sulked in the camellias, my sister pranced up the front steps, greeting me in some way that managed to convey her pity and contempt for those who had to amuse themselves in bushes while their older sisters enjoyed the freedom of walking home from school after an exhausting day of sophisticated banter and secret information taught only to fourth-graders.
I summoned everything I’d learned from my years of bitterness and especially from the last half-hour of reading Nancy Drew, and I widened my eyes. “You walked home alone?” I asked. “Did you see the man with the snake?”
While I led my sister on a long, convoluted, and unsuccessful search for the man with the snake (he sure left a lot of clues, that man), I decided that Nancy Drew had probably made up all her mysteries too. It was just too unlikely that all those things would really happen to one teenager, even if she did have a roadster (whatever that was). And now that I thought about it, made-up mysteries were more fun than real ones. Real ones might be scary. I didn’t like real snakes very much. But made-up snakes were, clearly, a gas.
I won’t say that was the beginning of my fiction-writing career (I had started lying long before that), but it was the beginning of my questioning the nature of mystery, which has now culminated in Ivy and Bean Take the Case, the newest book in the Ivy and Bean series. In this book, our heroes set out to be sleuths and wind up being suspects, they ponder the relationship between magic and mystery, as well as the frailty of their fellow-kid. There’s a yellow rope and possibly a gnome involved. Also a hat. It’s not the kind of mystery that happens to Nancy Drew, but it’s exactly the kind of mystery that happens to me and Ivy and Bean.