Friday, February 26, 2016

Ruby Lee and Me

Ruby Lee & Me. Shannon Hitchcock. 2016. Scholastic. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I loved, loved, loved Shannon Hitchock's Ruby Lee and Me. This middle grade historical novel is set in the 1969, I believe. It will be a year of BIG change for the heroine, Sarah Beth Willis. School integration is probably one of the least of her worries. First, her sister, Robin, is run over by a car. Sarah worries a lot. Will her sister die? will she wake up from the coma? Will she walk and run and play again? Will her sister blame her for the accident? Will her parents blame her for the accident? Can she ever forgive herself for reading a library book instead of keeping both eyes on her sister every single moment of the afternoon? Second, because of finances, her family will be moving in with her grandparents. Now Sarah loves, loves, loves to visit the family farm and to spend time with each of her grandparents. But to move away from her house, her room, her school, her neighborhood, her friends and to have to start all over again in a new place?! It's scary. The one person she does know--and is quite good friends with--is the one person the adults in her life tell her she CAN'T spend time with in town, at school: Ruby Lee.

Ruby Lee's grandma and Sarah's grandma grew up as friends, and, are still quite close--in their own way, in their own private, behind-the-scenes way. But whites and blacks can't be friends publicly and openly, can they?! School integration is happening in the fall. Ruby Lee and Sarah Beth will be in the same class. Sarah really wants to be at-school friends too. Ruby Lee is hesitant. Does Sarah know what she's getting herself into? Is it something she's comfortable with too? Tension is only getting worse between races: for the school will be getting African American teachers as well as students. And Sarah and Ruby Lee will be taught by an African American. A lot of parents are, at the very, very least concerned, and, at worst, ANGRY and upset by this. Sarah's family is fine with this, by the way.

Ruby Lee and Me is about race and school integration. But it isn't only about that. It is about friendship and family. How do you make a friend? How do you keep a friend? How do friends help one another? When is a friendship worth fighting for or standing up for? How do friends resolve disagreements and fights? I liked the focus on Ruby Lee and Sarah Beth. But I also appreciated the family focus. I loved getting to know Sarah, Robin, the grandparents, and parents. I also appreciated the community librarian! Readers do get a first impression of the teacher as well. Part of me wishes the book followed the girls past meet the teacher night and well into their school year.

Another aspect of the novel was faith--faith in GOD. I loved that aspect of it. Not enough books today are written with a good, strong, solid Christian faith tradition. The family's faith is presented realistically and naturally.

Anyone looking for a historical coming-of-age novel with strong characterization should read Ruby Lee and Me.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

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