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Ruby Holler Paperback – April 24, 2012
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“This poignant story evokes a feeling as welcoming as fresh-baked bread.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“An altogether engaging outing.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
From the Back Cover
"You are now entering Ruby Holler, the one and only Ruby Holler! Your lives are never going to be the same—"
"Trouble twins" Dallas and Florida are orphans who have given up believing there is such a thing as a loving home. Tiller and Sairy are an eccentric older couple who live in the beautiful, mysterious Ruby Holler, but they’re restless for one more big adventure. When they invite the twins to join them on their journeys, they first must all stay together in the Holler, and the magic of the place takes over. Two pairs of lives grow closer and are changed forever.
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I have fairly recently discovered Sharon Creech and her delightful books, including Love That Dog and Hate That Cat [HATE THAT CAT -LIB] [Library Binding]. She was awarded the Newbery Medal for Walk Two Moons (the Newbery is awarded to the best of older children's literature every year).
"Ruby Holler" itself won the Carnegie Medal for Children's Literature. Frankly, I would like to stand outside big chain stores, outlet malls, and the like with boxes and boxes of this book to hand out. If I could put this book into the hands and hearts of every adult with children, maybe we could eliminate emotional and psychological child abuse. It has long been my personal thesis that the ills of a country lie in child abuse and the anger that develops from it. But that's another story for another place.
"Ruby Holler" is the story of fraternal twins, Dallas and Florida, who live in this horrible orphanage and are taken out from time to time into foster homes by horrible adults who abuse them then return them. Part of the journey of the book is the revelation of the kinds of abuse they experience, from being thrown into a totally black cellar with spiders and rats to the devilish treatment by a couple's larva-from-hell, picture-perfect little girl. The twins' revenge is rewarded with a trip back to the orphanage. Creech wisely keeps the abuse to emotional and a little physical (the stay in the cellar), making her point quite clear without edging into other kinds of noxious abuse.
So why the names Dallas and Florida? The twins were left on the doorstep of this emotionally sterile orphanage run by a couple themselves emotionally sterile. The box in which the twins were found was lined with travel brochures, one with Dallas, one with Florida. Their birthdays and last names were manufactured. What is real about the twins is their absolute connection with each other.
At thirteen they are requested by an eccentric, older couple to accompany them on separate trips. Of course, these children wonder what is in store--and what is in store is wonder! Through the vicissitudes of daily life and all it entails, Dallas and Florida begin to experience what a loving home can be, how two people can bring wonder and joy and surprise and stability. Oh, how I love this book and the tears of trepidation, the tears of recognition of purity of heart, but ultimately, tears of pure joy that it brings!
There are surprise subplots as well. As for Ruby Holler itself, a quiet country backroad where the leaves turn into rubies in the fall--well, back in their younger years, Tiller uses it to woo his Sairy home from New York. His quiet manner and her understanding of his technique is another stirrer of heart emotion. Ruby Holler is also a quiet draw for the parched souls of two young teenagers in desperate need of emotional drink. They find it in Ruby Holler with this eccentric, endearing, and aging Baby Boomer couple who "find" and carve beautiful things out of wood.
Please take the journey of the joy found in this remarkable book. As librarian in a PK3-8 school, I've added copies to our collection and ordered all of Sharon Creech's other books. As the book cover states: "You are now entering Ruby Holler....Your lives are never going to be the same--." Oh so true!
The writing is deft and simple, yet not so simple that it's cloying. I'm reminded in a backwards way of the Lemony Snicket "Unfortunate Events" books, also about intrepid sibling orphans assaulted by rapacious adults. Whereas the Snicket books are coyly pretentious -- yes, funny but disingenuously snarky to the point of nastiness -- Sharon Creech gives us a pair of kids who are edgy smart-alecks when they need to be but capable of responding to decency with warmth. I think I'll set this book aside for my son to read to his kids some day.
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Reviewed by Paula NOT Robert