Ivy + Bean Book 6: Doomed To Dance by Annie Barrows

published 2010

From regular guest blogger Colm Redmond

When grown-ups asked you to sit in a circle, they were usually about to tell you something you didn’t want to hear. Ms Aruba-Tate, Ivy and Bean’s second-grade teacher, was forever gathering them in a circle for bad news. Like, the class fish died over the weekend. Or, everyone has to start using real punctuation. Or, the pencil sharpener is off limits. Circles meant trouble.

Bean watched Madame Joy walk pointy-toed to a chair and sit. No floor for her. “Girls,” she began, “I have something very special to tell you.”

“Oh, tell us, Madame Jwah!” cried Dulcie. She even clapped her hands.

[I+B find out they’re going to be squids - who don’t actually dance at all - in the class’s performance of “Wedding Beneath The Sea”.]

Bean’s mother had said she would make both squid costumes because Ivy’s mom didn’t like to sew. But it wasn’t even a real costume. Madame Joy’s picture showed a white leotard with a circle of droopy white tentacles hanging from the waist.

Madame Joy said that tentacles were a breeze to make. Bean’s mom didn’t think so.

“Who ever heard of squid costumes, anyway?” she muttered.

“No complaining,” said Bean.

“None of your lip there, missy,” her mother said.

That was grown-ups for you. They never followed their own rules.

[Note from CiB: Yesterday's entry looked back at the life of Shirley Temple, so it is appropriate, and a happy chance, that today's entry deals with modern-day potential child stars.]

observations: If, like me, you wish there were a dozen more books about Hilary McKay’s Casson family [this entry, and an early appearance by the Guest Blogger] - excluding the disappointing late sixth entry in the series - you could do a lot worse than look into Annie Barrows’ Ivy + Bean books. The children are seven (or eight - it depends where you look it up) and in theory the books are for that kind of age group. But, as with all the best children’s books, there’s plenty here for adults to enjoy.

Like the Cassons, they do outlandish things and get into outlandish scrapes, and crucially they don’t do it for attention, or to be self-consciously eccentric, or to be bad, or to gain an advantage over anyone else: if they did, adult readers wouldn’t like them and I’m pretty sure children wouldn’t either. They just do things because it seems like a good idea, or a good solution to a problem they’ve already created for themselves. And then they deal with the consequences, the ones they couldn’t foresee because they’re seven. (Interestingly, they will ask grown-ups for help, but not for ideas. They have all too many ideas.)

The supporting cast is good, too. Parents and other grown-ups are interesting and not entirely predictable. We don’t like all of the other neighbourhood kids and schoolmates equally, which is realistic; but no child is belittled for not behaving better than they know how to. Ivy + Bean are cut some slack because they’re kids so it’s only fair that the others are. Mind you, I like to think you can sense some score-settling at times by the author, for example with the parents who would bring a child up to be like Dulcie, in the extract, who is a massive two years younger than our heroines but loves dancing, is annoyingly very very good at it, and is both a precocious suck-up and a teacher’s pet, the worst possible combination.

The main pic is a beautiful serious grown-up squid costume from the Ballets Russes, designed by Natalia Goncharova c1916. Pic from the National Gallery of Australia website, which sadly doesn’t note which ballet it was needed for. It couldn’t be much less like Ivy + Bean’s ones, with stuffed tights for tentacles.

In Korea, apparently, squid are so beloved that the existence of a sexy squid outfit is a given. This pic is from a fancy dress costume website – I don’t know why the model looks like she probably comes from California.
Lots of other characters in fairy tales and other fiction have been “doomed to dance”, in much more sinister senses than Ivy and Bean, of course. The girls really wanted to dance in Giselle, where there are vengeful female spirits called the Wilis who force people to dance till they die of exhaustion. But they’re the spirits of jilted women, so that’s ok… And someone in the film The 12 Dancing Princesses - starring Barbie - is doomed to dance, but it would be a spoiler to tell you who it is.

To read more from the Guest Blogger, click on his name below.


  1. Moira - Thanks for having Colm here.

    Colm - Nice to see you again. I think you've put your finger on what makes a good children's series: characters and incidents that appeal to children, but plenty for adults too. I think it's easy to forget that adults read this sort of book either to children or with them. And sometimes for themselves. So it makes sense to appeal to adults. And I think books written that way are richer and more interesting. And I can honestly say I have never seen a squid costume like these. Who knew?

    1. Have I given you ideas for next Hallowe'en then, Margot? Yes, I agree about children's books appealling to parents too. Btw, I+B become detectives in one of the books so it should fit in with what so many CiB readers (and writers) enjoy.

  2. That Ballets Russes costume is certainly sensational. The ballet for which Goncharova designed the Costume for a Squid was called Sadko. Its story, taken from an epic Russian folk poem, features a wedding under the sea which is probably, (as the guest blogger has already pointed out to me) the very same wedding that Madame Jwah had in mind. More about Sadko here:


    1. Thanks to Trish for doing better than I did at navigating the National Gallery Of Australia website. Seeing the fish-head and the seahorse costume on that page not only reminds me of quite a few Dr Who stories, but makes me want to travel back in time to watch that 1916 production. Not sure why that URL is not showing up as a link, I can't do any better. But I promise it works if you copy it or right-click and click "Go To"

    2. I particularly like the seahorse costume on that page, which could double as a dragon if you wanted to go to a different event in it. Now I'm wondering if the dressing-room women from this entry http://clothesinbooks.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/dress-down-sunday-ipcress-file-by-len.html who *might* have been Ballet Russe can be identified by their costumes...

  3. Bless you for mentioning Ivy and Bean in the same breath as Hilary McKay's Casson books, which I consider to be works of genius. There's no one to whom I'd rather be compared. Thanks, too, for your wise reading of the girls and their various aspirations. Annie Barrows.

    1. Wow, it's exciting and very nice to hear from you. Glad you liked my post, and thank you for your very kind words. I'm glad you love the Casson books, too.

      Actually, when your comment appeared I'd just been wondering why I didn't mention that as well as everything else the Ivy + Bean books are often very funny - so I'm doing that now.

  4. Well...it's not for me, unsurprisingly. We always used to do home-made costumes for the kids. My wife does have a flair for it. Never could understand why my son didn't win with the ice-cream out of corrugated cardboard - fixed I reckon!

    1. That does sound good. Maybe some tentacles would have secured the victory.

  5. I can tell from the extract that this would be a fun series to read. I still love books like that, with illustrations. Re costumes for kids, I am so glad that is far, far behind me. Re the images here, I love them, especially the sexy squid outfit.

    1. Yes, Tracy, above all fun. And satisfyingly long, too, by chidren's standards. I like to think Ms Aruba-Tate could rock that sexy squid costume.


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