Monday, June 08, 2015

A Review of Shay & Ivy: Beyond the Kingdom by Sheena McFeely

Last September, Manny Johnson, one of the creators of, contacted me because co-founder and wife Sheena McFeely had determined to write a picture book loosely based on their two daughters. At that point, they were working with an illustrator so the book wasn’t yet ready to review.

The book came out in May 2015 and after seeing the interview on DeafNation, I went ahead and posted a quick blurb about Shay& Ivy: Beyond the Kingdom (2015) by Sheena McFeely (Author), Casie Trace (Illustrator).

Shay& Ivy: Beyond the Kingdom  (May 15, 2015) by Sheena McFeely (Author), Casie Trace (Illustrator)
Hardcover: 28 pages
Publisher: The Mansfield Press (May 15, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0996278508
ISBN-13: 978-0996278508

I was fortunate enough to read this book today and let me tell you, they had me even before the first page!

Mirror, Mirror
On the Wall.
You are beautiful.

Shay & Ivy: Beyond the Kingdom shares the story of two young girls who are playing dress up and make believe with their friends. When Shay figuratively steps out of the box of princess land, her friends don’t see her behavior as very princess-like. Shay doesn’t understand why she must be confined to imaginary balls and royal gowns when her imagination has the power to make her a brave warrior! But then, how will she ever fit in if she no longer wants to be a princess?

Mom to the rescue! Realizing that her daughters can be more, she must show them that they too can be scientists, artists, chefs, and even president! What in the world will Dad discover when he arrives home from his business trip with special gifts for the girls?!?

I love so many aspects of this book. First because of the nature of this blog, I should point out that readers should presume that all of the characters are Deaf. Some signs are used within the story but I enjoy how it is incorporated into the artwork instead of being an add-on. Of course, this isn’t a story about being a Deaf family with Deaf daughters; it’s a story about daughters and how they experience life.

I really appreciated how Sheena McFeely let the story unfold. It isn’t overly complicated just to be complicated. She added her own layer of complexity by allowing the characters’ concerns to be revealed. Shay really wants to be one way; Ivy wants to be another. The parents in the story embrace this. McFeely also added aspects that many young girls experience—the stress of having friends over; the stress of feeling different; and, even the stress of having one parent be away on a trip. She also added the close family connection—story time with Mom; the bond of sisters; and a Dad who is completely willing to take part in make-believe.

I’m not an artist so I will try my best to discuss the art even when I don’t quite know the technical terms. I enjoyed that it had depth. The artist Casie Trace added details to make the pictures feel detailed and rich. For example, on page 8 the colors she uses are bright but there is the subtle addition of a black sweater over Shay’s blue dress that is juxtaposed against the bright princess pinks and purples. On page 9, the artist adds images within the mirror that demonstrates her respect for this piece.

The story has the flare of Purplicious by Victoria and Elizabeth Kann except thankfully there weren’t any mean girls saying, "Pink is putrid!"; and, it also reminds me a bit of one of my favorite books, The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch.

It’s a great read and I look forward to future adventures of these sisters. Be sure to read my previous post where you can see an interview of the author including a link to the DeafNation interview (which includes captions for those not fluent in American Sign Language). 

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aromandhh said...

Would this be appropriate for middle school girls, ages 12-14, who are low level readers? Would it keep their interest at that age, do you think?

Sharon Pajka,Ph.D. said...

My first thought is that it is a picture book and may come across as a bit young for middle school students although I do think it would make an excellent text for discussion at any age really.

Perhaps you could try it and just explain that the book was intended for a younger audience but that you were curious what they (your middle schoolers) thought about the story itself... like a book review.

The bottom picture of the young girl reading is a screen shot of a two-page spread of the book. That may give you a bit more information.