Friday, October 7, 2011

Book Review: Love, Ruby Lavender, by Deborah Wiles

                                          June 8

Dear Miss Eula,
     Well, you are gone. I hope you are happy. I am not.
     For your information, Melba Jane is still here. I am working on a disappearing potion to make her vanish.

Summary:
Ruby Lavender is not your average chicken thief. For starters, she's only nine years old. Plus, she wasn't stealing those chickens as much as liberating them from a future lying cooked and crispy on someone's dinner plate. Ruby is looking forward to a summer of caring for her chickens, and spending lots of time with her partner in chicken thievery: getaway driver Miss Eula.

But Ruby's plans quickly unravel when Miss Eula decides to up and leave Halleluia, Mississippi for a while. She's going to Hawaii to visit her new baby granddaughter. She won't be gone forever, but she doesn't know when she'll be back, either. Up until now, Ruby has been Miss Eula's only grandchild, and Ruby is jealous. Plus, how will Ruby care for the chickens and their newly laid eggs, without Miss Eula's help? How will she deal with the torment that is Melba Jane, without Miss Eula to talk her through it? How will she get through helping out at her grumpy Aunt Mattie's general store, without Miss Eula to smooth things over? And who will leave Ruby letters in their secret mailbox, with Miss Eula gone?

As it turns out, that secret mailbox isn't the only way to exchange letters with Miss Eula. And Ruby finds herself spending a summer she never saw coming, and likely will never forget.

For Teachers and Librarians:

Besides being a story that will find a place in your students' hearts, Love, Ruby Lavender has a whole mess of ways for you to use it in your classroom. Use it as part of a letter-writing unit, as a connection with the letters Ruby and Miss Eula write back and forth. Have a fun side-unit on chickens: their behavior, care and feeding, and learning how a chicken gets from egg to chick. 

It's a great book to use in conjunction with a map unit, as the book includes a map of Ruby's little town. Have your students create maps of their own neighborhoods, or your school's neighborhood. Connect with social studies and examine maps of Mississippi, and Hawaii. Is Halleluia a real town in Mississippi? Mark it! If not, research what town the author based Halleluia on, and mark that instead. Mark the town where the new grandbaby lives in Hawaii. Conduct mini units on each state.

How about connections with transportation? Car, walk, plane, bus and bike are all mentioned in the book. A unit on travel would be fun: trying new foods, visiting new places, learning new cultures or ways of life. Or perhaps a unit on jobs: small business owner, anthropologist, newspaper columnist, egg ranch, or farming. Even retirement: what is it? How does it work? 

Guidance counselors can use this book too: lots of material here to help students work through conflict resolution issues, dealing with grief, working through bumps in the road of friendship, examining the many relationships we have with others (friends, neighbors, coworkers, family). 

So much material here. How will you use it?

For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers: 
Love, Ruby Lavender is a book that will touch your heart, as well as the hearts of your kids. You could each read it alone, or read it together. You'll be glad you did. And did you know? This particular edition has nice little extra: a Reading Group Guide in the back, geared especially to grandmothers and granddaughters.

This book touches on a host of real-life issues that your kids (and you) may be dealing with, in a gentle, loving way: death of a loved one and figuring out how to understand and live with that grief, conflicts with friends and kids at school, jealousy over new babies in the family, conflicts with family members and learning how to live peacefully among them, and even living in a one-parent household and the positives and negatives they may feel about that. But perhaps most importantly, Love, Ruby Lavender is about love, and forgiveness, and friendship, and family. Don't let this one pass you or your kids by.

For the Kids:
Ruby Lavender is a nine-year-old chicken thief. And who is her getaway driver? Her own grandmother, Miss Eula! They saved three chickens from ending up on someone's dinner table, and now one of them has laid three eggs. Ruby can't wait to spend her summer with Miss Eula, caring for those eggs, and the chicks that will hatch from them. But one day, Miss Eula tells Ruby she's going away for a while. All the way to Hawaii. Worse, she'll be visiting her brand-new baby granddaughter. (Up until now, Ruby was Miss Eula's only grandchild.) 

Here in Halleluia, there's that torment of a girl, Melba Jane to deal with. And Ruby's cranky aunt, Miss Mattie. How will she manage the chickens, and Melba Jane, and Miss Mattie, all by herself this summer? Who will answer the notes Ruby leaves in their secret mailbox? With Miss Eula gone, Ruby is expecting the summer to be awful. But then her new teacher, Mr. Ishee, moves into town. And he's brought his nine-year-old niece, who dresses like she's ready to head into the jungle. And soon, things start to get a lot more interesting... 

For Everyone Else:
Love, Ruby Lavender is a book that will find a place in your heart, curl up, and never leave. Adults will find themselves remembering what it was like to be nine and learning about the world as they moved through it. Kids will find themselves relieved to see that a lot of the things they have to deal with, others do, too, and that somehow it all works out, eventually. 

Wrapping Up:
Love, Ruby Lavender is destined to be a classic. Buy it. Borrow it. But - good garden of peas! - make sure you read it. You'll be glad you did.

Title: Love, Ruby Lavender
Author: Deborah Wiles
Cover Illustration: Marla Frazee
Pages: 212
Reading Level: Ages 8-12
Publisher and Date: Gulliver Books (Harcourt, Inc.) 2002
Edition: First Gulliver Books paperback edition, 2002
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $5.95
ISBN-10: 0-15-202314-3
ISBN-13: 0-15-205478-2pb


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