Winner of the UK's 2003 Carnegie Medal
The Barnes & Noble Review
From Newbery Medal winner Sharon Creech comes a heartwarming tale about second chances, unconditional love, and the true meaning of family. With wry humor, a quirky cast of characters, and a setting that is as magical as it is beautiful, Creech examines what happens when two pairs of very different people come together to form a family.
Ruby Holler is the name of a wondrous place that an older couple named Tiller and Sairy call home. However, "home" for Dallas and Florida, twin orphans who are known for their troublemaking tendencies, is the nearby Boxton Creek Home, a place run by a crusty couple with a very long list of stringent rules. The twins have managed to leave the orphanage a few times when foster families have taken them in, but things never seem to work out, and they always get sent back. With each return, their lives become more restricted and their hopes for a successful adoption dim.
They have no reason to think that things will be any different when Tiller and Sairy adopt them and take them to their home in the Holler. In fact, things might well be worse, since Sairy and Tiller are planning separate vacations, each of them intending to take a twin along. The only thing Florida and Dallas feel they can truly depend upon is each other, and at the thought of being separated -- even for a short while -- they panic and make plans to run away from their newfound home. But their plans get changed when they begin to realize that Sairy and Tiller aren't like all the other adults they've known.
Creech enriches her story with hidden treasures, discovered secrets, and several adventures. Her characters are likable though flawed, and their ever-changing emotions are subtly -- and often humorously -- conveyed. But as the story unfolds, it soon becomes clear that the most important element of all is the magic that's afoot in Ruby Holler -- a wondrous and powerful magic called love. (Beth Amos)
The characters introduced here two abandoned children, their villainous guardians and a kindly country couple might have stepped out of a Dickens novel, but as Creech (Love that Dog) probes beneath their facades, the characters grow more complex than classic archetypes. Florida and her brother Dallas, raised in an orphanage run by the cold-hearted Trepids, rely on each other rather than grownups for support. They become suspicious when Mr. Trepid informs them that they are going to a place called Ruby Holler to accompany old Mr. and Mrs. Morey on separate vacations. Florida is to be Mr. Tiller Morey's companion on a canoe trip; Dallas is to help Mrs. Sairy Morey hunt down an elusive bird. Readying for the trips proves to be a journey in itself as the Moreys, Florida and Dallas make discoveries about one another as well as themselves in a soothing rural environment. This poignant story evokes a feeling as welcoming as fresh-baked bread. The slow evolution of the siblings who are no angels parallels the gradual building of mutual trust for the Moreys. The novel celebrates the healing effects of love and compassion. Although conflicts emerge, readers will have little doubt that all will end well for the children and the grandparently Moreys. Ages 8-12. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Dallas and Florida, dubbed the "trouble twins" by various caregivers, have had a rough life so far: they were abandoned as newborns on the orphanage steps, farmed out to foster care for manual labor, made to sleep in vermin-infested cellars andworst of allhave always been rejected and returned like unsatisfactory merchandise. They are the oldest residents of the Boxton Creek Home, run by the Trepids (interesting pun). Along come Tiller and Sairy Morey, an older, empty-nest couple who live in Ruby Holler, a truly wonderful place. But is it too late? Will Dallas and Florida be able to accept kind treatment and great home cooking with their lifelong distrust of adults? Add to this the vaudevillian, greedy Trepids who get wind of the Moreys' "understone" money stash plus the shadowy figure of "Z," a neighbor of Tiller and Sairyfriend or foe? The characters are lively, with the interaction between Florida and Tiller, and Dallas and Sairy heartwarming. However, the plot is so unabashedly Dickens-like, I keep expecting Dallas to pause somewhere in theses pages and say, "Please, Sir, I want some more." The first sentence not only contains a grammar mistake ("were" not "was"), but defies every English teacher's rule: show readers what the characters are like, don't tell them. Young readers will enjoy this book; however, I expected more from a two-time Newbery author. 2002, HarperCollins, Ages 10 to 14.
Dallas and Florida are known at their awful orphanage as the "trouble twins," but the 13-year-old boy and girl are offered a chance for a different kind of life when an elderly couple invites them to come along on their adventures. This kindly couple, Tiller and Sairy, have always lived in Ruby Holler, "a lush, green hidden valley," but Sairy fantasizes about bird watching on an exotic island while her husband Tiller wants to take a canoe trip. They hope the children will be their companions as they prepare to separate for the first time for these trips. Initially suspicious, daydreaming Dallas and feisty, outspoken Florida come to care for the loving, tolerant couple and to adore their new home in Ruby Holler. Meanwhile, the director of the orphanage plans to steal Tiller and Sairy's life savings while they're gone, enlisting the help of a mysterious neighbor. Trial runs of the adventures nearly end in tragedy, but the mysterious neighbor—who might be the twins' father—helps to ensure a happy outcome, and the couple and the twins realize that they belong together in Ruby Holler. This fairy tale of sorts incorporates many of the themes that Creech has explored in her other YA novels, like the Newbery Medal-winning Walk Two Moons and Newbery Honor book The Wanderer: the longing for lost parents, the importance of a journey as a means of self-discovery. This will appeal to younger YAs, middle school as well as upper elementary students, who will enjoy the humor and the escapades as Dallas and Florida, Tiller and Sairy adjust to life together, and they will appreciate the happy ending of this sweet, deliberately rather old-fashioned tale. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for juniorhigh school students. 2002, HarperCollins, 310p.,
This is a fast moving novel about an exceptional relationship between two older, adventuresome country souls named Tiller and Sairy Morey and twin orphans from the Boxton Creek Home for Children, Dallas and Florida Carter. The home, operated by Mr. and Mrs. Trepid, seems to be little more than a ramshackle parking place for the thirteen children who live there. The Trepids have mapped out a large number of spirit-numbing rules and regulations. However, as a character later points out, not everything is on maps. Tiller and Sairy Morey temporarily adopt the twins, and take them to Ruby Holler, a magical place named for the brilliant fall colors of the maple trees. The Moreys live like pioneers without modern conveniences, but with a respect for the land and a creative way of carving birds and boats out of wood chips. The spunky, lively twins are transformed by being softened up with good food and Tiller and Sairy's loving and gentle ways. They assist each other in adventures featuring physical challenges, treachery, and treasure maps. Recommended for young readers who love fantasy, adventure, and just plain whimsy. 2002, HarperCollins, 310 pp.,
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-Orphaned twins Dallas and Florida have resigned themselves to living within the confines of the Boxton Creek Home for Children. It's a loveless existence. The Trepids, owners and "rule enforcers" of the home, target the brother and sister at every opportunity and all of the prospective adoptive parents have returned them to the orphanage. Eventually the children are sent to act as temporary companions to an eccentric older couple who live in Ruby Holler, and there they find love and acceptance. While the plot is predictable, the story weaves in an interesting mix of mystery, adventure, and humor, along with age-old and modern problems. Creech does a fine job of developing the unique personalities and the sibling relationship, and the children's defense mechanisms (Dallas's dreamy escapism and Florida's aggression) figure prominently in the interplay among the characters. The text is lively and descriptive with an authentic, if somewhat mystical, rural ambience. This entertaining read from a first-rate author will not disappoint Creech's many fans.-Robyn Ryan Vandenbroek, Elgin Court Public School, St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
The trouble twins, Dallas and Florida, are given the opportunity to take a three-month vacation from the horrible orphanage that has been home. An elderly couple, Sairy and Tiller of Ruby Holler, wants help. Tiller would like to build a boat and explore the river Rutabago with Florida, while Sairy dreams of visiting far-off Kangadoon to see a red-tailed rocking bird, but needs Dallas's assistance. Dreamy Dallas and Feisty Florida have always counted on each other and dread parting. As the twins naturally strew trouble wherever they go, they also reveal the horrors of their past-but gradually, all four characters draw together. The charm of Sairy's acceptance of whatever awful thing the twins do is matched by her desire to see what she's like when Tiller isn't there. Despite ominous signs that the separation of both pairs may be dire, they persist. Adding tension, Mr. and Mrs. Trepid, who run the nursing home, hire Z (their only Ruby Holler neighbor) to discover the buried funds that will finance the upcoming expeditions. Tiller, is a grumbler, but it only hides his soft heart. Dallas and Florida both have a hard time believing that anywhere in the universe can be as wonderful as Ruby Holler, and they try to remain committed to their original plan to catch the freight train and escape. Various tidbits about the origins of the twins tumble into the plot in haphazard ways, developing that mystery. Such charm and humor is encapsulated in this romp with its melodramatic elements of treasure and orphans, that it feels perfectly reasonable to want it to go on and see what happens next. Creech ends with the readers more in the know than the characters concerned, making for a slightly unsatisfyingfinish. Still: an altogether engaging outing. (Fiction. 9-12)
Read an Excerpt
The Silver Bird
Dallas leaned far out of the window, his eyes fixed on a bird flying lazily in the distance. Sun slanted through the clouds above, as if a spotlight were aimed on the bird.
A silver bird, Dallas thought. A magical silver bird.
The bird turned suddenly, veering south over the small town of Boxton, toward the faded yellow building and the window from which Dallas leaned. Dallas stretched his arm out. “Here!” he called. “Over here!”
The bird swooped toward him and then rose up over the building, high, high into the air, over the alley and the train tracks and the dried-up creek. Dallas watched it rise on the air currents over one brown hill and then another, until it disappeared.
He tried to follow it in his mind. He imagined it flying on until it spied a narrow green valley, a scooped-out basin with a creek looping and winding its way through the center. He pictured it swooping down from the sky into this basin in the hills, to this place where cool breezes drifted through the trees, and where the creek was so clear that every stone on its bottom was visible.
Maybe the silver bird had flown home.
“Get out of that window!” a voice shouted from below. “No leaning out of windows!”
Dallas leaned a little farther out and called down to Mr. Trepid. “Did you see that silver bird?”
“Get out of that window, or you're going to join your sister down here pulling weeds,” Mr. Trepid threatened.
Dallas spotted his sister, Florida, inching her way along the sidewalk, wrenching clumps of weeds and grass and dirt from the ground.
“Putrid weeds,” Florida snarled,heaving a clod of dirt over her shoulder.
Dallas watched as the clod landed on Mr. Trepid's back and as the man scuttled over to Florida and whacked her on the head. Dallas wished the silver bird would return and snare Mr. Trepid and carry him high up over the town and then drop him, splat, in the middle... Ruby Holler. Copyright © by Sharon Creech. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.