Faith, Hope, and Ivy June

Ever since the tragic explosion at the West Virginia coal mine earlier this week, I have been thinking a lot about a book I listened to a few months ago, Faith, Hope, and Ivy June by Phyllis Naylor Reynolds.Ivy June Mosley and Catherine Combs both live in Kentucky, but they live in two different worlds. Ivy June lives with her grandparents outside a small coal mining town while Catherine goes to a private school in Lexington. When the girls are chosen to be exchange students, they spend two weeks at each others home learning about their differences, their similarities, and ultimately themselves.When Catherine visits Ivy June’s small town – tragedy strikes them both. An incident occurs out at the mine and Ivy June’s grandpa is one of the miners trapped inside. At the same time, Catherine learns that her mother faces a serious medical crisis back home and anxiously awaits news of her condition. During these events, the girls each face uncertainty, helplessness, and grief. The desperation that Ivy June’s small town faces is palpable.Consequently, I was moved during the recent news coverage, when a miner at the West Virginia coal mine said, “Every time you turn on a light, you should think of these guys.“He is right. Coal mines are not a thing of the past-they are a reality today and it is important to put a human face on the cost of electricity. This book would be an interesting discussion book to use with older elementary age students, both because of the real way it connects with the dangers of coal mining and because it provides a glimpse into prejudice from several important angles.Are there other titles you think are important to discuss during this eco-friendly month?