Nine-year-old Ruby is devastated when her grandmother (and best friend) goes to Hawaii to see her newest (and second) granddaughter. Ruby fights loneliness and jealousy by writing letters to her grandmother and by caring for three chickens they rescued from the slaughterhouse. There was a serious accident a year ago—Ruby's grandfather and Melba's (also nine) father were killed in a car accident. Each character handles the personal loss differently—Melba is angry and blames Ruby, Ruby's grandmother goes to Hawaii to escape the memories, and Ruby feels guilty and always takes the long way into town to avoid the scene of the accident. She must also cope with Melba's anger and cruel teasing. The grudge escalates to Melba tossing rocks at the hen house and killing two baby chicks just before they are due to hatch. Ruby is devastated but learns to forgive herself as well as Melba. The maturity level and perceptions of these nine-year-olds is exceptionally high, but it is well-written and could appeal to an older audience. The format includes letters Ruby writes to and receives from her grandmother, which are full of pathos, humor and feeling. 2001, Harcourt, $16.00. Ages 9 to 11. Reviewer: Janet L. Rose
Gr 3-6 Talented Tony award-winner Judith Ivey is the narrator of this inventive title. An exceptional story in its own right, author Deborah Wiles (Harcourt, 2001) has created an irresistible character in Ruby Lavender, the most precocious resident of Hallelulia, Mississippi. Ruby is the only grandchild of Miss Eula Dapplevine, and the two are definitely "kindred spirits." Partners in crime - they steal ready-to-be-slaughtered chickens - the two share their thoughts and feelings by leaving daily missives in the knothole of a silver maple. Ruby, adventurous and opinionated, is devastated when her grandmother announces her plans to visit a new grandchild ("I hope they name her Hortense," Ruby offers) in Hawaii. Miss Eula and Ruby continue their correspondence throughout the summer, as Ruby offers "free advice," like "Always jiggle babies after they eat." Miss Eula consoles Ruby as she faces challenges and tries her best to combat the jealousy she feels toward her new cousin. Ruby's arch rival, Melba Jane, irritates Ruby, tells secrets. and generally upstages her until the day she really needs help, and Ruby comes to her rescue. Proving her theory that "life does go on," Miss Eula returns to Hallelulia to find that Ruby has, to her own surprise, made new friends and matured a bit in her absence. A rewarding read that perfectly blends the culture and the humor of the south, this not-to-be-missed title will be welcome in all collections that circulate audiobooks for children. -Kirsten Martindale, Buford Academy, GA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.