Happy birthday, Max and Ruby! This brother and sister duo will be celebrating 40 years this year, and yet they don’t look like they’ve aged a day. In addition to the millions of book copies sold, Max and Ruby are also stars of their own television show on Nick, Jr. In celebration of their birthday and the release of the newest book, Max & Ruby and Twin Trouble, I had the chance to chat with author Rosemary Wells.
What do you think makes these two, and their stories, so timeless?
Max and Ruby are the universal older sister-younger brother team. They were in real life my own two children. Theirs are gentle stories with the funny-bone and humor coming directly from the way children really think and really relate to each other without the parents anywhere nearby to get in the way!
Many years ago when the real Ruby was 5 years old and the real Max was about a year old I sat upstairs listening, taking notes on how the older sister would try and boss her younger sibling into good life habits which of course completely eluded the 1 year old. I would never have gone downstairs and interrupted them as it would have ruined their dialog.
If you ask a class of young children if they have older siblings they all say that they get bossed around and don’t listen to a single word. If you ask the same class about younger siblings they all agree, yes they trespass in your room and touch your stuff and never listen to common sense. So I began to realize I had the nutmeat of a classic series. I have nothing at all to do with the TV program. That’s done up in Canada. It’s wholesome, has a great theme song and kids love it.
The cover of the newest book, Max and Ruby: Twin Trouble hints at the big change arriving. What made you decide to add to the family now?
Oh, a big change has arrived and the parents, for the first time are in the story, but they don’t talk, those parents. They just occupy the house, along with the twins who make a lot of noise! It’s Max and Ruby who always star in every story. Ruby always wins and Max never loses! It’s big change but I think things will always revolve around my two main characters in future books.
As regular readers will expect, Ruby has all the answers, even before her new siblings arrive, and yet it’s Max who ultimately saves the day. In your mind, is Ruby always as confident, and Max always as quietly observant?
Ruby, evidently, knows the facts of life. Max doesn’t believe a word she says about where babies come from. He knows from observation that babies come from taxis, and of course, Max is right! I love making jokes about know-it-all children and Ruby is surely one of those. I don’t explain, needless to say, anything about the facts of life!
One of my favorite scenes in the book is the arrival of the taxi and Max’s interpretation of what that means. How do you stay so connected to the thinking of a 7-year-old and a 3-year-old?
I have 5 grandchildren and that helps! A writer of children’s literature always has his or her “voice” on hand. That means we can slip into character whenever needed, just like an actor!
One last question. Now that we have met the new twins, will we continue to seem them grow and Max take on the big brother role?
No, they won’t really grow up. They are too funny as squalling babies and much can be made of that story-wise.
All the humor would be lost and I would have to create a new family with a bigger Max and much older Ruby. That’s not what Max and Ruby are all about. Like most classic characters in series of books, they will stay babies and Max and Ruby will stay as they are. An ever repeating world of wonderful stories for succeeding generations of children.
Think Christopher Robin. He never grew up very much in Milne’s books. Think also Nancy Drew. Nancy never marries her sweetheart. She lives always with her Dad, drives her roadster and has adventures with her pals. That’s how it is in books. When you create a world that works you stick with it!
Thank you, Rosemary! We look forward to celebrating the new additions with Max and Ruby, as well as the adventures to come.