Katrina McKelvey (text) and Jasmine Berry (illustrator), Mila & Ivy, Wombat Books, March 2022, 32 pp., RRP $24.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781761110801
Mila and Ivy are sisters who enjoy playing together and creating fantastical designs out of boxes, but they have very different approaches. Mila is an organised Cardboard Design Engineer, while Ivy is a little more chaotic. When Ivy decides to help with building their amazing cupcake catapult, Mila is devastated when Ivy starts tearing things apart. Can they work out how to work together again?
Obviously, this is a story about siblings working and playing together, and about appreciating what different approaches and ideas bring to the table. It’s about being a little flexible when you’re playing or working with others. There are some very sweet moments in the story, when Mila and Ivy are having fun together, and it’s clear that they usually enjoy each other’s company.
This story felt like it would make a good teachable discussion point on cooperation, not just with siblings but also with friends, and learning to be a little more flexible and a little less fixed on your own ideas and way of doing things. In a classroom setting, it could be interesting to discuss some of the things that the story doesn’t address, such as where the story puts the burden of communication between the sisters, and why. How would younger readers feel if they were Mila? What if they were Ivy? How would they handle things if they were in a similar situation? This book could make an excellent starting point for conversations with young readers about empathy and collaboration.
There is an open-hearted charm to the illustrations, which expand beautifully on the story. The expressions of the characters give clear, visual cues to the emotional reactions, and would enhance a discussion about reading peoples’ emotional responses quite nicely.
The various box projects that the sisters create are also a lot of fun, and could be another possible direction to take discussions with young readers. I could see this book becoming part of a kindergarten or early primary unit involving young students learning to work together to create their own Cardboard Designs.
There is a lot of potential in Mila and Ivy to make a great discussion book for young readers aged 4-6 years who are starting to learn how to interact with siblings and other children, to help them articulate responses to the inevitable challenges that come along with working and playing together.
Reviewed by Emily Clarke