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Ruby's Wish Hardcover – September, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

First-time kids' book author Shirin Yim Bridges uses a tender family story to travel back to turn-of-the-century China and teach a proto-feminist lesson about perseverance and self-belief.

Idiosyncratic young Ruby lives in a large (and wealthy!) Chinese family, in a gigantic "house filled with the shrieks and laughter of over one hundred children." She stands out because she insists on always wearing red, the color of celebration ("Even when her mother made her wear somber colors like her other cousins, Ruby would tie up her jet-black hair with red ribbons") but even more so because of her quiet dissatisfaction with the family's traditional gender inequity. Determined to study reading and writing--even when it means long hours catching up on more wifely training--Ruby eventually comes to the attention of her grandfather, the wise house patriarch, who springs a surprise as the time for her to wed approaches.

Graceful Aussie illustrator Sophie Blackall captures the culture--contrasted by Ruby's bright red defiance--expertly, with elegant calligraphy, muted period clothing, and countless nice details (from a porcelain bowl full of terrapins to ink smudges on Ruby's cousins' faces). And what's better, Bridges's well-structured story is true--with a fun surprise ending! (Ages 4 to 8) --Paul Hughes

From Publishers Weekly

Bridges, in her first book (based on her grandmother's story), handles the conflict between Chinese tradition and young Ruby's longing to attend university with grace and compassion. She sets the scene with a description of "a block of houses, five houses wide and seven houses deep, [once] the magnificent home of one family." Ruby lives in this home with her grandfather (who "did what rich men did in old China: he married many wives"). A tutor teaches any of the 100 assorted grandchildren who wish to learn, but Ruby is the only girl who continues to study while also keeping pace with learning her many household duties. Bridges characterizes the heroine as confident and spunky. For instance, she "insist[s] on wearing red every day"; opposite, Blackall (A Giraffe for France) gives a nod to Chinese silkscreening with four poetic images of her, one per season, wearing various red outfits. One day, her teacher shows Ruby's grandfather a poem she has written in calligraphy: "Alas, bad luck to be born a girl; worse luck to be/ born into this house where only boys are cared for." Grandfather questions her about the poem, and she confides her wish to go to university. Years later, at a New Year's Day celebration, he proves that he was listening. Blackall conveys their special relationship in subtle ways: Grandfather's presence on the balcony, observing Ruby at her studies, a gentle stroke of her head when Ruby is called to Grandfather's office. This understated tale takes Ruby's predicament seriously while still celebrating her love of learning and her joyful personality. Ages 4-8.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Grade Level: Preschool - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 600L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 36 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books (September 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811834905
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811834902
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 0.5 x 10.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #465,762 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Shirin Yim Bridges is the author of Ruby's Wish, one of Publishers Weekly's Best Children's Books of 2002 and winner of the 2003 Ezra Jack Keats award; The Umbrella Queen, named one of the Best Children's Books of 2008 by TIME magazine; the forthcoming Mary Wrightly So Politely; and The Thinking Girl's Treasury of Real Princesses. All her books are about girls who manage to exert themselves and do the unexpected. Shirin lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

http://www.goosebottombooks.com
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Goosebottom-Books/130515220313366.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Anonymous on December 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Serendipity brought this book into our home and I'm so grateful. It is a beautiful book in every way, from its vibrant illustrations to its messages of respect -- for oneself, for one's elders, for one's culture and for the never-ending gift of learning. The story of Ruby, a Chinese girl whose intelligence, integrity and confidence inspired her family patriarch to break with tradition, speaks to all. We are African-American parents of a son. We read this book to him often and we know that, through hearing Ruby's story, our son's perspective on life and the world in which he lives has been enormously enriched.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 29, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Ruby, a little girl living in turn-of-the-century China, is so named because she loves red, not just on holidays, but every day of the year. She also loves to study with her cousins in the school provided by her wealthy grandfather. Her calligraphy is especially fine, and she comes to her grandfather�s attention when she writes the couplet �Alas, bad luck to be born a girl, worse luck to be born into this house where only boys are cared for.� Her grandfather questions her kindly and finds out that she would rather attend university than enter marriage�which is, of course, expected of all girls at the time...
On the last page we learn that this is a true story, based on the author�s grandmother. We also get to see a photograph of this grandmother, one of the first women university students in China. And we learn that �every day, she still wears a little red.�
This is a gem of a book, with simple yet evocative writing and beautiful illustrations which capture emotions wonderfully and provide a wealth of detail on Chinese dress and décor of the time.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Deb Nam-Krane VINE VOICE on September 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Ruby is a little granddaughter of an old man who "struck it rich" in California (and lived to tell the tale). His wealth is such that he takes on many wives (a sign of wealth and privilege in Old China), has many sons (a sign of good fortune) who in turn take many wives, and ends up with over one hundred grandchildren. He arranges for a tutor to teach any who want to come (even the girls, going against the traditional customs) and is surprised to see that little Ruby (so named because she defiantly wears celebratory red even when there is no holiday) is the grandchild with the most promise. Long after all the other girls drop off and are married away, she persists with her lessons, even though it means that she must work late into the night on her "wifely" arts like embroidery. As hard as she works, she is keenly aware that tradition will soon force her to give up her studies and marry. When her grandfather is made aware of her unhappiness and asks her to explain, he listens but says nothing. What will happen next may not be much of a surprise, but the twist at the end is sure to bring a smile to the face of the reader.

This story "works" on many levels. The bright palette of the book makes Ruby pop off the page. The illustrator does a good job of showing Ruby progress from quietly curious to defiant yet resigned. The restraint of the illustrator is as evident as the skill. The point of the story is of course powerful and poignant: most girls in Old China as well as many places in the modern world are trained to be only wives and mothers at the expense of opening the world to them through reading and writing. While her grandfather's benevolence shields her from that fate, the author still shows the subtle ways in which a young child would understand what her expected role was. However, she manages to do it without beating the point with an age-inappropriate hammer.

This is a great story that ages five and older will be touched by.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Emily Hawkins on December 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover
In olden China, a family with over a hundred members lives in one large house. The grandfather patriarch sets up a school just for his grandchildren. This story focuses on one girl, nicknamed Ruby because she always wore red. Ruby loved to learn and felt badly that boys were given more opportunities than the girls were. Boys were able to go to university; girls got married. After writing a simple poem expressing her thoughts, the grandfather asked Ruby to tell him why she felt that way. The next New Year's Day, Ruby was given more than her usual "lucky money" in her traditional red envelope. She had a letter of acceptance to a university -- making her one of the first women to attend. This story is written by Ruby's grandchild.

This story is simple and sweet. The kids are so cute, and you get a bit of Chinese culture by understanding gender roles and holiday customs.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kelly J Raudenbush on July 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Though this is a true story, it reads like fiction. In Ruby's Wish, Shirin Yim Bridges tells the story of a bright and independent little girl growing up in a house of 100 children. But, this little girl stands out in a crowd and writes a poem about how hard it is to grow up as a girl where boys are privileged. When questioned by her grandfather, the patriarch, she makes her case. And, years later, instead of a little cash in her red envelope on Chinese New Year, she receives a university invitation in her red envelope and becomes one of the first female students to attend. The combination of great watercolor illustrations and the true story of a Chinese woman whose wish came true makes this one a treasure. As you read with a daughter from China, be prepared for some hard conversations about their preference for boys.

If you want to read reviews of 35 children's books having to do with China, visit the 7/2/2012 post on myoverthinking(dot)com
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