Ida B . . . and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World by Katherine Hannigan – Reviewed by Heather Jensen

Ida B

“Good friends help you find important things when you lose them . . . things like your smile, your hope and your courage.” ~Doe Zantamata.  


Books are like these friendships. I hold my favorite books close to my heart and the characters become like my closest friends. Every spring break, I feel the need to go back and visit with these friends. For me, realistic fiction is the genre that helps me connect with the world, puts me in someone else’s shoes and builds empathy for those around me. I need to touch base with these books, so I can find my smile, my hope and my courage.  One certain book has been calling to me, flashes of the cover pop into my mind, the trees whisper Ida B, the rivers ramble on about how I need to share Ida B. with my students. “And if you’ve never heard a tree telling you something, then I’d say you don’t really know how to listen just yet. But I’d be happy to give you a few pointers sometime.”  


Just so you know when I say Ida B, I pronounce it nice and slow like “Eye-da-bee,” which is the way Mama and Daddy say her name throughout the book. Ida B is a girl after my own heart, she believes there is never enough time for fun. She is always planning how to fit the most fun in each of her days. She loves to be home schooled where she can spend as much of her time outside with her trees and the brook on her mountain. Ida B is a girl who feels things deeply and cares for everyone and everything around her. Right from the beginning we understand that Ida B cares for the earth and even tells her Daddy, “I think the earth takes care of us, too.”


Just when Ida B thinks her life cannot get any more perfect, life happens to the Applewood family. Something happens to the family that sends Ida B back to Ernest B. Lawson Elementary School, a “Place of Slow, but Sure Body-Cramping, Mind-Numbing, Fun-Killing Torture.” The terrible event sends Ida B’s perfect world tumbling down into a place of pure misery. Everything she holds close and believes to be true seems to be turning against Ida B. So Ida B, must make a plan. Will her plan help her maximize fun, avoid disaster, and (possibly) save the world?


Unfortunately, Ida B devises a plan to shut out anyone and anything that made her heart happy. Her plan is to be so miserable that no one will ever be able to hurt her heart again. She becomes the opposite of the fun loving Ida B we met at the beginning of the story. This is harder to do than Ida B imagines, as Ms. Washington becomes an unexpected lifeline at school who keeps the path open for the old Ida B to come back. It is in these dark times, that Ida B learns that unlikely friends will help her “find her smile, her hope, and her courage.”


Ida B . . . and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World by Katherine Hannigan is a quiet book published back in 2004. It may not be a book on everyone’s radar, but it is an important book. Through Ida B, our students can learn valuable life lessons on how to maximize the fun, how to care for the earth, how to deal with the “not-so-great things,” and how to have the courage to let people in during the difficult times.  It is a quiet book that just may save a young person’s life as they are dealing with tough situations in their own lives. Every year, Ida B finds itself in the hands of a young person who needs the love, hope, and courage to face a not-so-great thing in his/her life.


I am so glad I listened to my heart, the trees and the river calling me back to Ida B. Just like the trees and the brook, I realized how much I missed Ida B and all her planning.


“But then Viola, who is the kindest bunch, whispered, ‘We missed you too, Ida B.’

Maurice, who’s about forth nicest, said, ‘Welcome Back, Ida B.’

And right then, my heart almost overfilled with happiness.”


My heart is filled with happiness, hope, and courage! Thank you, Katherine Hannigan, for bringing Ida B into our world.

Heather Jensen is a fifth grade teacher in Harrison, Michigan. Her classroom is filled with books that at one time were the perfect book for that student who needed a little help becoming a wild reader. She is a member of the Chippewa River Writing Project. She loves snuggling with her two dogs, Coach and Indigo, while reading. Follow her on Twitter @hmjensen31.