Hannigan's debut novel is set on a prosperous, secluded apple orchard in Northern Wisconsin. But although the orchard may be secluded, life here for the Applewood family is anything but lonely. 9-year-old Ida B is a spunky youngster with a vivacious imagination and the blessing of two parents twho love one another as genuinely as they love their daughter, their land, and their livelihood. Mr. and Mrs. Applewood further nurture Ida B's keen-edged confidence and creative spirit with home-school. Ida B's world is thus a safe and wonder-rich place, and she prides herself as a master planner, a girl who can out-wit anything that threatens the safety and wonder of this world. Ida B considers the trees and the brook to be her friends, and she believes that the land takes care of her family just as her family takes care of the land.
But when her mother is stricken with cancer, Ida B learns that even the best plan can't cover all the “what if's” of life. Mrs. Applewood's declining health forces the family to sell part of their orchard and enroll their daughter in public school. Ida B's beloved trees are cut down to build a house for the new neighbors. Devastated, Ida B makes up her mind to hate school, harden her heart against future hurt, throw a cold shoulder to her parents, and drive the new neighbors away—even if such tasks demand that she hurts her neighbors, parents, and classmates in the process.
Ida B sets out to scare the new neighbors away by posting menacing signs on their property that warn of fictitious dangers ranging from typhoons to water rats. But when the new neighbors turn out to be the family of one of Ida B's classmates (Claire), Ida B succeeds only in scaring away a potential friend. At home, Ida B isolates herself emotionally by not disclosing her feelings to her parents.
With the help of her kind-hearted teacher (Miss Washington), Ida B reconsiders her plan. Miss Washington shares her favorite books with Ida B, and encourages her to find a voice in the classroom and open her heart to others by reading aloud. Slowly, Ida B comes to admit that school can be a likeable place—but as this change in attitude emerges, Ida B begins to regret her past behaviors. She revises her “Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World.” The new and improved plan is a plan to make amends. Ida B accomplishes this in a series of heartfelt “I'm sorry's.” She forgives herself for not being able to safe-uard the orchard and her family, and then follows-up by apologizing to the remaining trees, the parents she snubbed, Claire, and Claire's family.
This report prepared by Tracie Amirante