Season 1, Episode 6: Full Story Analysis of Ivy & Bean
Sue: Hello, and welcome to the Mommy’s Pen podcast. I’m Sue Campbell, a writer and children’s book author, and I am here with my 11 year old daughter, Nora.
Sue: Hi, Nora.
Nora: Wait, why are you saying hi to me? I’ve been with you for like three hours.
Sue: That’s true. You’ve been with me all day. It’s been kind of a long day already.
Sue: So, today’s going to be a very special episode because we’re going to take everything we’ve learned about story structure so far on the podcast, and put it all together and analyze-
Nora: So, we’re going to like do an episode, but it’s like a whole story structure, so your brain doesn’t completely explode. We have compiled all our amazing expertise into this one episode because the little fragments we’ve done along the way, you might want to see how it all fits together, right?
Sue: Yes. Very well said.
Sue: Okay, so without further ado, the book we will be looking at-
Nora: Ivy & Bean.
Sue: You want to say that five hundred times slower, so everyone can understand?
Nora: Ivy & Bean.
Sue: So, here we go. First, I want to give just a little rundown of what we’re talking about when we’re talking about story structure. So, this-
Nora: Wait, I thought we just explained that over this entire season.
Sue: I know, but again, this might be someone’s first episode, and it’s helpful just to give a little bit of a recap. It helps people build on the information they already had, or catch up if they didn’t have any.
Sue: So, the story structure model that we’re using, and there are many, is a four act structure, which I learned from a man named Larry Brooks, and you can see more about him and his work at storyfix.com, and he basically has you visualize a big circus tent, and your story structure serve as tent poles to basically hold your story up.
Sue: At the beginning of your story, you have your regular life opening, then you have some kind of inciting incident, or beginning hook, to really grab the reader’s attention, and then you have a first-
Nora: Like a time machine drops from 500 years ago.
Sue: That would be a good inciting incident. I like that.
Sue: And then you have a first plot point, which basically sets the character on the path that they’re going to follow in the story, but they’re still kind of reacting to things as they’re happening. Midpoint shift in the story, you have a shift in the character where they move from just reacting to everything, to making their own plans and being more proactive. Your second plot point, you have some new information that causes the character to make a final plan, or take a final action, and that’s what kind of lights the fuse to get us to the climax of the story. The climax of the story is kind of how everything plays out obviously, most people are familiar with that bit, and then you have the resolution, which is how everything ends up after all of the choices the characters made, and all of the results of that.
Nora: But they’re sometimes terrible choices.
Sue: Sometimes they’re very terrible choices, that’s true. That makes it even more interesting oftentimes, I think.
Sue: I think in the book we see today, we’re going to see some pretty terrible choices made.
Nora: Quite a lot of terrible choices.
Sue: We’re going to look at the first book of the Ivy & Bean series, which is conveniently called just Ivy & Bean. There are 10 books in the series now, and excitingly, and great timing for this podcast-
Nora: Is ‘excitingly’ a word?
Sue: There’s a new Ivy & Bean coming out. It’s been a few years since there’s been a new one, and it will be book number 11 in the series, and it’s going to be called One Big Happy Family, and we’re very excited.
Nora: I’m sure it’s not very happy.
Sue: We’ll see.
Nora: I hope it’s not.
Sue: So, Nora, why don’t you tell us a little bit about the sort of regular life beginning of Ivy & Bean?
Nora: Well, basically Bean is this girl who had all these friends, and she makes some bad decisions sometimes, and she has a really annoying older sister, and there’s one girl across the street and her name is Ivy, but Bean never plays with Ivy because she thinks Ivy is boring because all Ivy ever does, in her mind, is read books.
Sue: Yep, that’s very well summarized.
Sue: So, then the inciting incident, also known as the beginning hook, of the story, what do you think that is?
Nora: What do you think it is?
Sue: I made notes. I prepared for this episode.
Nora: You never told me to make notes.
Sue: So, basically Bean goes shopping with her mom and her sister-
Nora: Oh, yeah. Yeah, and then her sister’s just like, “I’m not sure if I want this skirt. I think the pockets are dumb and it costs $40. That’s all my money, I could get two shirts for $40.” Bean’s like, “Don’t be a tightwad,” and then her mom’s like, “Don’t call your sister a tightwad,” and then Bean’s like, “Hmm, maybe I should come up with some kind of evil plan to make Nancy be not a tightwad anymore.”
Sue: Exactly. So, Bean hatches this plan to trick her sister, and she basically decides to-
Nora: Let me explain it.
Nora: Well, she decided she’s going to sit in a bush, holding a string that is taped to a $20 bill, which she sets on the sidewalk, and she thinks, ‘Nancy’s going to go down and pick up the $20 bill, then she’s going to yank it out of her hand, and that’s going to teach her not to be such a tightwad.’
Sue: And where did Bean get the $20?
Nora: She stole it from Nancy.
Sue: So, that is the beginning hook of the story, and it’s pretty funny.
Sue: First plot point, basically Bean gets caught before this plan really works, and Ivy-
Nora: Well, Nancy’s standing on the $20 bill, and Bean is shouting, pretending she’s a ghost.
Nora: And then Nancy’s just like, “I bet this is my money.”
Sue: Yes, so those two fight and meanwhile, Ivy, across the street, has been watching this whole thing transpire, and Bean runs away to Ivy’s house. So, instead of facing her fate when going into her mom, or Nancy’s going to tell-
Nora: You’re making it sound like she’s going to be beheaded, or something.
Sue: Well, I’m sure it probably feels that way. She’s going to get in big trouble, she’s going to be punished. So, instead, she decides to run away because Ivy’s like, “Hide,” and so that kind of kicks off. We know now that this story is going to involve Ivy and Bean actually becoming friends, where they didn’t think they wanted to initially.
Sue: And then the midpoint shift of the story, do you have any guesses?
Nora: The midpoint shift is, well, Ivy thinks she’s a witch.
Sue: Yes, Ivy believes that she is training herself to be a witch.
Nora: Yeah, and so she’s wearing a black bathrobe with little bits of paper on it, and a stick painted gold, and Bean doesn’t think this is very witchy, so she decided she’s going to help Ivy become more witchy, and in return, Ivy is going to help her cast a spell on Nancy to make her dance ridiculously for the rest of her life.
Sue: Yes, puts a dancing spell on her.
Sue: So, basically, the midpoint shift is when they shift into becoming friends and forming a team.
Nora: Against Nancy.
Sue: Against Nancy.
Nora: Poor Nancy.
Sue: Poor Nancy.
Nora: Remember in the second book when Bean asks if they can turn Nancy into stone?
Sue: Yes, so do you have more compassion for Nancy because now you’re 11, the same age as Nancy, and now you have a younger sister?
Sue: Who’s almost as mischievous as Bean.
Nora: No, Alma is more mischievous.
Sue: And Alma’s also a toddler, so I think that adds an extra layer, but I think you and Alma get along so much better than Bean and Nancy.
Sue: Most of the time.
Sue: So, the second plot point of the story, which is where we get some new information, usually there’s new information, last chance to get that, which causes the character to sort of make a final dash for the end of the book, so to speak. It’s the last bit before the last exciting piece of the story happens.
Sue: In Ivy & Bean, and Nora, I’ll say what I think and you can disagree or agree, it’s your choice. Ivy and Bean sneak across all the backyards of the neighborhood to get back to Bean’s house because they need to get-
Nora: Because they live on a cul-de-sac, so-
Sue: Yes, they live on a cul-de-sac, and their plan is that they need to get to Bean’s backyard, so that they can collect some worms because they need worms for the dancing spell, and Bean knows where the worms are in her yard.
Nora: And there are a lot of worms in her yard apparently.
Sue: So, when they get to Bean’s backyard, Bean sneaks up to the house and listens, and she hears Nancy crying, and she supposes, of course, that Nancy’s crying because Bean is missing, and so she’s feeling all this remorse and she really misses Bean a lot.
Nora: And then can I say the rest of it?
Sue: Of course.
Nora: And then, she hears Nancy scream, “But everyone has them,” and then Bean gets mad because she realized Nancy is crying about not having pierced ears, and then she bangs on the window and yells, “You’re a big turkey.”
Sue: So, that last little push, it’s like this turning point of, “Oh, Nancy really misses me. Oh, actually, no she doesn’t, she’s still completely self-centered Nancy, and she’s complaining about her own pierced ears even though everyone should be up in arms because I am missing,” and so there’s a confrontation that happens.
Sue: So, the climax-
Nora: And then Nancy’s like, “Get in here, Bean breath.”
Sue: Yes, and you can start to see some of Nora’s basically amazing recall, almost word for word, of many of the books that she’s read, but we have read this one over and over, I have to say, and listened to the audio book over and over.
Sue: So, there’s a confrontation between Bean and Nancy.
Nora: And Ivy is on Bean’s side.
Sue: And Ivy’s on Bean’s side naturally, and they’ve been collecting worms.
Nora: And they have a bucket of worms.
Sue: And so when Nancy comes out and confronts them, Bean basically gets really angry when Nancy makes fun of Ivy-
Nora: So, she picks up a handful of worms and she throws it at Nancy, and then she throws another handful of worms at Nancy because Nancy’s open mouth is screaming, and one gets in her mouth, and it actually happens inside, mom.
Sue: No, I think it’s outside.
Nora: No, I think it’s inside.
Sue: Doesn’t necessarily matter, and then Bean runs like crazy. She has to run away, so they run Nancy all over the yard, like zigzagging because zigzagging people are harder to catch.
Nora: And they go into the little playhouse they have, except Nancy doesn’t see the huge pit-
Sue: Where they’ve been digging worms.
Nora: Yes. The huge slippery pit where they’ve been digging worms.
Sue: And so now Nancy starts to slip and flail, and basically look like she’s under a dancing spell.
Sue: So, it all comes full circle in a pretty hilarious fashion. That’s the climax, and then the resolution of the book is-
Nora: Nancy falls down and smooshes-
Sue: That too, but the main resolution-
Nora: … into the pit and gets covered in more worms.
Sue: Yes, and perhaps the key takeaway is that now Ivy and Bean are best friends.
Nora: Oh, yeah, right. Oh, yeah.
Sue: So, the target age for the Ivy & Bean books, I would say, are maybe like six years old through 11. You’re kind of aging out of them, but they’re just so funny and so good.
Sue: Aren’t you super excited about reading the next one?
Sue: Even though it’s about seven year olds, right? Ivy and Bean are seven?
Nora: Yeah, except they might be eight at the time this one comes out-
Sue: It’s possible.
Nora: … because they go through a lot of stuff.
Sue: They do.
Nora: Like getting trapped in an attic.
Sue: Do you want to rattle through the 10 titles for people?
Nora: Sure. So, there’s Ivy & Bean, which should be like Ivy & Bean and the Worms, or something because that would be good. There’s Ivy & Bean and the Ghost That Had To Go, Ivy & Bean Break the Fossil Record, Ivy & Bean Take Care of the Babysitter, Ivy & Bean Bound to be Bad, remember? “BRA!”
Nora: And then Ivy & Bean Doomed to Dance, Ivy & Bean what’s that seventh one called? What’s the big Idea, Ivy & Bean No News is Good News, which is your favorite.
Sue: That’s my personal favorite.
Nora: And then there’s Ivy & Bean Make the Rules. That’s a pretty good one too.
Sue: That’s a good one.
Nora: And then there’s Ivy & Bean Take the Case, and then Ivy & Bean One Big Happy Family is coming out in September?
Sue: August 28th.
Nora: Oh, it’s coming out in August?
Sue: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Nora: Except it’s the 28th, so that’s not much different.
Sue: So, who’s your favorite in the Ivy & Bean books?
Nora: Mrs. Trantz.
Sue: Do you want to explain who Mrs. Trantz is?
Nora: Mrs. Trantz is basically this evil lady who hates kids.
Sue: Yes, and what’s her general problem with kids?
Nora: She thinks they’re messy, and dirty, and disgusting, and she particularly hates Bean.
Sue: And which of the 10 books so far is your favorite?
Nora: Probably the ninth one, but I couldn’t choose.
Sue: Which one is the ninth one again?
Nora: Ivy & Bean Make the Rules.
Sue: Oh, where they run their own summer camp?
Nora: Yeah, that one.
Sue: Yeah, that’s a really, really good one.
Nora: I also like Ivy & Bean Take Care of the Babysitter.
Sue: That one’s good too.
Nora: So, now you’ve asked me what my favorites are, but I know your favorite book is No News is Good News, where they make their own newspaper, so they can get money to buy the special kind of cheese.
Nora: And then what’s your favorite character?
Sue: Oh, God.
Nora: Answer without thinking.
Sue: First of all, the character development over these books, the little details for these characters, is just so, so, so, so good, and the more you read them, the more sort of layers you see. Even though the stories are very straightforward, very action-packed, there’s not a ton of description, she just does such a beautiful job of communicating so much in like 100 pages. That’s one of the reasons we-
Nora: Like where it said in the first book, “When Bean put on a headband, it fell off.”
Sue: Right, that just says so much, the descriptions of the two girls.
Sue: The things I love about Ivy are she’s very studious, she loves reading, she obviously has-
Nora: No, I think Ivy is one my favorite characters too, and I’m not trying to copy you.
Sue: That’s okay, you can copy me.
Nora: You’re trying to copy me.
Sue: There’s only like two characters to choose from. Everyone’s going to pick one or the other, right?
Nora: I chose Mrs. Trantz.
Sue: That’s true. You always choose the villains though.
Nora: Well, Bellatrix is my favorite Harry Potter character.
Sue: So, is this your MO, you’re going to ask me a question and then not let me answer?
Nora: Okay, fine, you can talk.
Sue: So, Ivy, she loves reading, so I love that about her, she is an introvert-
Nora: I love reading, I’m an introvert.
Sue: She doesn’t care about what anybody else thinks of her.
Nora: I don’t care what anyone else thinks of me.
Sue: Maybe this is why she’s my favorite, because I tend to like you most of the time.
Nora: What do you mean, “Most of the time?”
Sue: And she obviously has some sort of sensory processing disorder because she can’t do cartwheels, and she can’t dance-
Nora: Like me.
Sue: Like me and you.
Sue: So, yeah, she’s very, very lovable, and she’s mischievous. They’re both mischievous.
Nora: And basically, her not being able to do cartwheels is the entire plot for the second book basically. It’s like the hatching of it, you know?
Sue: Right. That’s the reason everything happens the way it does in the story. She’s trying to make excuses for not doing cartwheels.
Sue: So, that’s our rundown of the four act story structure using a nice, straightforward, short read book, Ivy & Bean.
Nora: Is this episode over already?
Sue: I think it’s getting close.
Nora: But I like this episode.
Sue: It’s pretty fun.
Sue: And again, August 28th there’s a new book coming out. If you start now, you could easily read all the books in the series and get caught up, and then read book number 11.
Nora: If you started on August 27th, you could read all of them.
Sue: You probably could if you just binged read them, and the audio books are good for this series as well.
Sue: We have this wonderful/terrible habit of buying print copies and audiobook versions.
Nora: Well, we just buy the print books and then we read them, but then we don’t want to have to read them all over again because we want to read new things, so then we just listen to them, you know?
Sue: Yes, and do you want to tell everybody how you feel about libraries?
Nora: I think they’re a total farce because you don’t get to keep them and look at little facts that you forgot. It’s totally messed up.
Sue: But do you see the value for many, many people of libraries?
Nora: No, I don’t.
Sue: A lot of people don’t want to keep the books, they want to read them and then be done with them, and-
Sue: … if you wanted to read them again, you could always go back to the library-
Nora: But what about hoarding information?
Sue: … and check them out again.
Sue: Well, you are kind of a hoarder. Maybe hoarders don’t like libraries.
Nora: I don’t. They’re terrible.
Sue: Yeah, well, we’ll see what you say in a few years when all of your media funds are coming from your own pocket.
Nora: Well, I’ll just become really famous and then I’ll use all my fame money to buy me books.
Sue: Oh, will you buy me books too then?
Sue: Oh, come on.
Sue: So, thanks everyone for listening in. This is probably going to be the last episode of season one, and we’re going to put out thinking caps on and come up with a nice theme for season two.
Nora: We should do genre.
Sue: We could do genre. That’s a possibility.
Sue: Thanks for listening, and if you want to help out the podcast, there are a couple of things you can do. Number one, you can leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. Those are very helpful to help-
Nora: Or you could buy me toenail polish.
Sue: Or you could buy Nora some toenail polish. She already has toenail polish, don’t do that. Leave a review instead.
Sue: You could also become a sponsor of the podcast through Patreon, patreon.com, where you can throw in a buck or two each episode, or give a monthly donation, whichever you like. Right now, we’ve got five supporters who are just wicked awesome, and that’s helping us pay for transcripts of each episode because we want these podcasts to be accessible to a hearing impaired audience as well.
Sue: Or you could just tell a friend if you think they might like it, and spread the word.
Nora: Or if you think they wouldn’t like it because then you should tell them because then they’ll totally hate it and that’ll be funny.
Sue: You could do that too, or you could just keep it to yourself if you don’t like it, or just stop listening if you don’t like it too.
Sue: All right, good bye, everyone. You’ll hear us next week.