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Young Adult Fiction General (see Also Headings Under Social Themes)

What Happened to Ivy

by (author) Kathy Stinson

Second Story Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2012
General (see also headings under Social Themes), Death & Dying, Siblings
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2012
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2012
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 12 to 16
  • Grade: 7 to 10
  • Reading age: 12 to 16


David’s younger sister Ivy, born with multiple disabilities, needs constant attention. She may be eleven years old, but in many ways she’s still a baby. She embarrasses him in public. She takes all of their parents’ focus, to the point where David wonders if they see him as anything more than a helper for Ivy. But despite it all, he loves her. The summer days are following their usual pattern of taking care of his sister, doing chores, and trips to the cottage. The one exception is Hannah, the new girl across the street. Hannah makes David feel anything but routine. He wants to be around her all the time. And, amazingly, she seems to be into him as well. Everything changes when Ivy has an accident while being looked after by her dad. As David wrestles with what happened to Ivy, he is forced to confront his own feelings of guilt, the meaning of mercy, and what can be forgiven.

About the author

Kathy Stinson is a familiar name in children’s literature. She wrote the award-winning Red is Best and Big or Little?—two of the first picture books for preschoolers in Canada. Both were a huge success and have since achieved international acclaim. Red is Best 25th Anniversary Edition was released in 2006 a newly illustrated Big or Little? was published in 2009. Kathy’s latest book, The Man with the Violin (2013), was greeted with rave reviews, including starred reviews in Kirkus and uill & uire. Illustrated by Duan Petricic, this beautifully evocative picture book tells the true story of world-renowned violinist, Joshua Bell, who conducted an experiment by anonymously playing his priceless violin in the Washington D.C. subway station. Kathy grew up in Toronto. “My love affair with books began as a child,” she says. “I remember regular visits to the library, getting stacks of books to read.” She still has a notebook of stories that she wrote when she was in grade four. She believes that reading a lot is the key to becoming a good writer. In the early 1970s Kathy attended university while teaching elementary school. In 1981, she took a course called “How to write and get published.” The titles she has published in the years since range from picture books to young adult novels, from historical fiction chapter books to short stories in the horror genre. 2008 sees the publication of her first brand-new picture book in sixteen years! Kathy enjoys visiting schools across Canada, and especially talking with fellow writers. In 1987 she traveled to England as part of an exchange of Canadian and British children’s authors. She has helped students across Canada pursue their own creative projects through the Writers in Electronic Residence program, and in many communities has conducted writing workshops for children and for adults. When she’s not busy writing or reading, Kathy is a self-proclaimed jigsaw puzzle addict. Her children now grown, she lives with her partner, editor Peter Carver, in a hamlet not far from Guelph, Ontario.

Kathy Stinson's profile page


  • Commended, Canadian Library Association's Book of the Year Awards, Young Adult category

Editorial Reviews

I wish we had more books like this one. It really showed how complex these situations are and made me really take a look at my own misconceptions. I really cannot say enough positive things about this story. It's a very important one. And I hope that many more people will read it.

One a Day Y.A. Blog

This book tackles a very heavy subject with sensitivity and compassion for all those involved. Stinson masterfully depicts the stress that Ivy's condition puts on the entire family and their relationships, as well as the reality of David's situation.

Canadian Children's Book News

What is most refreshing about this novel is its honesty. So many novels with young protagonists shy away from giving characters real-life problems to negotiate. Stinson, however, rolls up her sleeves and really describes what it’s like to cope with a family member’s disability. She does this with great sensitivity, carefully yet frankly discussing the reality of day-to-day life...While What Happened to Ivy will undoubtedly resonate with families coping with the demands of special needs children, it can also be enjoyed for the well-wrought story that it is.

NewPages Book Reviews

What Happened to Ivy will both make you cry and question your own feelings when it comes to the meaning of mercy. I recommend this smart novel to older readers looking for a book that will making them think about what it’s really like to have friends, family and people to love.

The National Post

What Happened to Ivy is a valuable contribution to the growing realm of extreme “problem novels” in today’s Canadian young adult literature. Indubitably, this book deserves a place in every library in the country. And for those classrooms brave enough to tackle the topic of mercy killing, there couldn’t be a better entry point than Kathy Stinson’s novel.

CM Magazine

In a YA landscape littered with dystopia, urban fantasy, and romantic fiction, Stinson offers an important wake-up call to young readers that there is more to life, and that it's not always easy.

Quill & Quire

Reading David's story, I felt so strongly that he really needed to talk to someone his own age, who would listen and understand and give sage advice; then it occurred to me that very few people his age would have any sage advice to give: his situation was relatively unique, although survivor's guilt itself is not. That is a role that Stinson's book can perform admirably.

Resource Links

This book was so powerful. It made me realise how little I know about people who are mentally challenged, and how very little the world knows about what their families do for them on a daily basis. It brought up so many questions and really showcased the complexities of this world.

One a Day Y.A. Blog

David's brief, but intense, story will have you on the edge of your seat. My only criticism was that is was too short — it left me wanting more!

The Waterloo Record

Other titles by Kathy Stinson