Way Down Deep
  • Alternative view 1 of Way Down Deep
  • Alternative view 2 of Way Down Deep

Way Down Deep

3.1 7
by Ruth White

View All Available Formats & Editions

Although Ruby seemed to just appear out of thin air on the steps of the courthouse on the first day of summer in 1944, no one in Way Down Deep, West Virginia, ever worried too much about where the toddler came from. They figured that if Ruby's people were dumb enough to lose something as valuable as a child, then that was their problem. So even though Ruby can't

…  See more details below


Although Ruby seemed to just appear out of thin air on the steps of the courthouse on the first day of summer in 1944, no one in Way Down Deep, West Virginia, ever worried too much about where the toddler came from. They figured that if Ruby's people were dumb enough to lose something as valuable as a child, then that was their problem. So even though Ruby can't help but wonder where she came from, she has led a joyful and carefree life in Way Down Deep, loved and watched over by Miss Arbutus – proprietor of The Roost, the local boardinghouse – the residents of The Roost, and the rest of the town. But when Ruby is twelve, a new family moves to Way Down Deep, and they inadvertently provide enough clues about Ruby's past that she is able to find her own people. Ruby travels from Way Down Deep to the top of Yonder Mountain to learn who she really is – only to find that she is bound to Way Down Deep by something even stronger than family ties: love.

With a touch of fairy-tale magic and a lot of heart, Ruth White explores just what it is that makes a place truly home.

Way Down Deep is a 2008 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The opening chapters of this warmhearted story set in 1954 read like postcards from the holler, as White (Belle Prater's Boy) introduces the quirky residents of Way Down Deep, a town "cradled between the hills in a place that later became known as West Virginia." The central setting is a boardinghouse called The Roost, run by Miss Arbutus Ward, the last living member of the family that founded the town. Into her life drops Ruby, about age three, who turns up one June morning on the courthouse steps, unable to explain how she got there. Some of White's narrative teeters on the wobbly edge of farce: the Reeder siblings, for instance, are named Peter, Cedar, Jeeter, Skeeter and baby Rita ("Mama had run out of rhyming names, so she had to settle for a tongue twister," explains oldest sibling Peter). But as the mystery of Ruby's origins unravels, White reigns in her eccentric cast to focus on the girl's tender relationship with Miss Arbutus, and the story finds an emotional center. The ending is a bit neat, but this book brims with wise observations and beautifully realized moments, such as when Ruby explains what Miss Arbutus told her about why a fellow boarder, haunted by the mother who gave him up for adoption as a baby, sleeps all day: "God is in that place where sleep takes us. Way down deep inside, where all the answers lie." Ages 10-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
KLIATT - Janis Flint-Ferguson
Infant Ruby June shows up in Way Down, West Virginia one day, with curly red hair and no parent in sight. It is 1944 and Miss Arbutus Ward, spinster owner of the town boardinghouse, takes her in. But when Robber Bob moves to town with his senile father, Bird, Ruby comes into contact with her past and seeks to find out who she is and how she ended up on the courthouse bench. Way Down is populated with some truly eccentric Appalachian characters. There are Dr. and Dr. Doctor, the family physician and his wife, the dentist; Mrs. Rife, who throws rocks; and Miss Wordy, who runs the town library. Mr. Crawford, who also lives in the boardinghouse, The Roost, is writing a book about the town that never gets written. When Bob Steeder and family move into town, Ruby becomes friends with Peter and his nonstop cussing brother, Cedar. (Cuss words are delicately indicated by symbols.) They too have lost their mother, but seem to know something about a small girl who disappeared mysteriously from Yonder Mountain, another Appalachian community. The novel integrates folklore with elements of fantasy and biography as Ruby searches for identity and comes to realize the true nature of home and mother. This may be a bit quirky for young adolescents, but it provides an excellent character study through old-fashioned Appalachian storytelling.
VOYA - Jamie S. Hansen
In 1944, the residents of tiny Way Down Deep, West Virginia, were enchanted to discover a red-haired toddler sitting on the steps of the courthouse, seemingly having materialized out of thin air. Because the child could offer no clues to her identity, except her name-Ruby-the town adopted her with enthusiasm. For years, even though Ruby occasionally wondered about her parents and her previous home, she led an idyllic existence, adored and protected by Miss Arbutus, owner of the Roost boardinghouse, as well as by the other delightfully eccentric residents of the remote mountain community. When Robber Bob Reeder, his elderly father, and his five alliteratively named children moved to town from across the mountains in Virginia, the year Ruby was twelve, however, the girl's life suddenly changed. With their stories of children lost on mountains and eaten by panthers, the Reeder family inadvertently provided clues that offer Ruby the chance to discover who she really is. When Ruby makes the long journey from Way Down Deep to the top of Yonder Mountain, she meets her blood kin at last, only to discover that the ties of love can be even stronger than those of family. Peopled with delightfully quirky characters, this short novel captures the authentic cadences of Appalachia. Adding a hint of magical realism to this sweet and tender tale of family and friendship, White helps her readers to learn what home and family really mean for Ruby and for everyone.
Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami
Framed in the textured Appalachian context we have come to expect from White, here is the story of Ruby June. In 1944, at the age of "two and a half, three at most," we learn she has been left outside the courtroom in the town of Way Down Deep. Because the Sheriff does not know how to say no, Ruby ends up with Miss Arbutus Ward, owner of The Roost, and is quickly integrated into the life of this quirky town. Then Bob Reeder, as inept as he is needy, arrives on the scene and fails miserably in his attempt to rob the local bank. He is given cookies, groceries, and an empty house in town. He has twelve children, after all, and the citizens of Way Down Deep are compassionate in a lovely, practical kind of way. In less capable hands this material could easily turn to treacle but here it assumes the dimensions of a mystically guided journey. It is Ruby's journey, in fact, and soon an uncle turns up to claim her. The cast of characters is purely delightful—among them Cedar Reeder, who is afflicted with cussitis and swears in energetic code; nonagenarian Mrs. Rife, who throws rocks at people walking past her house; and Reese, who serenades Ruby with popular ditties of the period, amusingly placed. Sometimes the answers to Ruby's questions arrive a little too readily. Grandma Combs seems antagonistic enough to make the pluckiest orphan tremble, although her transformation into guilty survivor feels a bit neat. Still, in all, this is a charming tale of family, loss, and identity.
From the Publisher

“Both fable and mystery, Way Down Deep is simply irresistible, as plucky orphan Ruby June searches for the secret of her past, deeply entwined with an entire community worthy of Dickens. Funny, sweet, and filled with the heart's own truths, this is the best book yet from the queen of Appalachian storytelling.” —Lee Smith, author of On Agate Hill and Fair and Tender Ladies

“A tale of magical beginnings and the everyday magic of an ordinary place populated by a colorful cast of characters worthy of Dickens. A story to love.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

“At the heart of the story are profound questions that readers will enjoy puzzling out.” —Booklist, Starred Review

“Captivating and thoughtful on many levels, White's novel offers humor, mystery, and a feel-good ending that a multitude of readers will find satisfying ‘way down deep.' ” —School Library Journal

“Has its own memorable charm.” —The Horn Book

“White's humor is wise and gentle. . . . Goats, children, readers, disappointed old men, and crotchety old women--all find a warm welcome in Way Down Deep.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

“Ruth White . . . narrates in a voice that is not condescending by wryly knowing, as if she's Flannery O'Connor for the younger set.” —Chicago Tribune

“Peopled with delightfully quirky characters, this short novel caputres the authentic cadences of Appalachia.” —VOYA

“You easily fall in love with the little town of Way Down Deep.” —A YALSA YA Galley Teen Reader

“This book has a great plot. I love the small hometown-feeling of the story and all of the characters. . . . this book was great!” —A YALSA YA Galley Teen Reader

“This is one of my favorite books--I felt like I was really in Way Down Deep.” —A YALSA YA Galley Teen Reader

Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
6.18(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.78(d)
Age Range:
10 - 13 Years

Read an Excerpt

From Way Down Deep

When Miss Arbutus and Ruby grew weary, Ruby would go to her cozy room, which Miss Arbutus had decorated for her in ruffled yellow and white, with purple pansies embroidered on her curtains and pillow shams.

Before turning out the light, Ruby always stood before the window and gazed at the hills against the night sky. Though she could not remember her parents, she thought of them, and wished them health and happiness.

"And don't forget me," she always added. "Woo-bee is right here waiting for you."

Then Ruby climbed into bed. The pansy curtains fluttered in the mountain breeze as her eyes closed. Sometimes she woke up in the wee hours of the morning to find a lady in her room, sitting very still in an armchair by the window. At such times a hazy memory floated to the surface of Ruby's mind - a memory of being held and rocked beside a window, through which she could see snow falling.

If Ruby sat up in bed, or said anything, the woman disappeared into the shadows. So she learned that if she was to keep this lady, who was surely her mother, then she must not move or speak. She would drift off to sleep again, and the morning daylight revealed nobody in the chair.

Meet the Author

RUTH WHITE is the author of many award-winning books for children and young adults, including the Newbery Honor Book Belle Prater's Boy and its sequel, The Search for Belle Prater. Her newest book, A Month of Sundays, will be available from FSG in October 2011. She lives in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >