Childish Nonsense

Exploring Children's Literature

More Nonsensical Sparks

on June 18, 2012

Another writer I’m looking forward to meeting this July is Deborah Wiles. I have not met or seen her before, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to like her.

I recently read Love, Ruby Lavender, published in 2001 by Gulliver Books/Harcourt.

It’s the story of nine-year-old Ruby, who is learning to deal with her grandfather’s death nearly a year later. Living in a small town, she has strong relationships with her single mother and her grandmother. She does not have a good relationship with Melba Jane, a girl her age. The reasons for the animosity between Ruby and Melba are revealed slowly throughout the story.

Ruby is a great character. She’s flawed, but in such a way that the reader cheers for her even when she’s messing up or being unreasonably stubborn. In her own words, she’s “a chicken thief. And a housepainter. And a floor sweeper.” All of which makes complete sense in the context of the book. She’s much stronger than she realizes and has a unique view of the world.

Although this is a very serious book with very serious themes, the author makes great use of humor. As Ruby learns about separation, grief, friendship, and tolerance, the reader learns right along with her.

She is separated from her grandfather by death, from her grandmother by distance, and from her chickens in several ways. She grieves because of these separations, each in a different way.

She should be friends with Melba, but neither of them sees it. She makes friends with Dove, a girl visiting Ruby’s new teacher.  But her best friends are her grandmother and her chickens.

First, Ruby must tolerate herself. She appears self-assured, but she carries a lot of guilt. She must learn to tolerate Melba, if only for the sake of peace. She must learn to tolerate her great aunt, who misses her brother, Ruby’s grandfather. Miss Mattie, as Ruby knows her, doesn’t share Ruby’s unusual view of the world.

The title gives a clue that colors are important images in this novel. Ruby Lavender, Melba, Dove, the Pink Palace, Grandpa Garnet, brown eggs, and some blue paint are just a few of the colors mentioned.

Love Ruby Lavender!

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4 responses to “More Nonsensical Sparks

  1. ediehemingway says:

    I love Ruby Lavender, too, Sue, as well as Debbie Wile’s colorful voice as a writer.

  2. Ellen L. Ramsey says:

    I’m a Ruby Lavender fan too!

  3. Laura Bowers says:

    Love, love, LOVE that book!! One of my all-time favorites. Great review, Sue! 🙂

  4. Not only is Ms. Wiles an excellent writer, she is a good speaker. I look forward to hearing her again this July. I especially look forward to seeing you and the rest of the gang. Sarah

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