Children's Literacy Round-Up: June 17
The Devil's Arithmetic: Jane Yolen

Ruby Holler: Sharon Creech

I'm continuing the 48 Hour Book Challenge this morning with Ruby Holler, by Sharon Creech. Ruby Holler is the story of "the trouble twins", 13-year-old Dallas and Florida, who have spent their lives living in the dilapidated Boxton Creek Home. They've had many failed foster parent experiences, some terrifying, some grim, and they are very wary of adults. They remind me a bit of Tony and Tia Malone in Escape to Witch Mountain (another pair of twins who seem unable to keep out of trouble, and who no one seems to want).

An elderly couple asks the twins to come and live with them in their country home in Ruby Holler (named for the red maple trees in the fall), to help with a project. The twins by this point have serious trust issues, and keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. But Tiller and Sairy Morey are different from anyone that the twins have encountered before. Together, the four embark on a series of adventures in the lush, rural Ruby Holler.

This book reminded me a little bit of Louis Sachar's Holes, with the bleakness of the Boxton Creek Home, and the quirkiness of the Moreys (although the main setting is the exact opposite of the setting in Holes). Throughout the book, we learn about the various other homes that the twins have lived in, gradually coming to understand their prickliness and acting out. In parallel, we watch Dallas and Florida, and Sairy and Tiller, gradually changing one another. It's a story about love and patience and second chances, and suspense and adventure, too.

There are many small things to like about the book. I love the way that Sairy and Tiller are with each other, two halves of a whole, with their own unusual endearments. I smiled at the way that Dallas has of painting a positive future with words, even when things seem bleak. And I laughed out loud at some of the wonderful foods cooked up by the Tillers: mission-accomplished-cake, be-nice-to-orphans brownies, and welcome-home-bacon. Even the names of the dreadful owners of the Boxton Creek Home, the Trepids (as in, the reverse of intrepid?) are clever and apt.

This is a book that you'll enjoy while you're reading it, and feel good about afterward. It's suitable for fairly young kids, with lots of dialog, and short chapters. The bleak incidents in Dallas and Florida's past have an exaggerated quality, like a Roald Dahl story, rendering them less disturbing than they might be otherwise. This book won a much-deserved 2002 Carnegie Medal.

You can read about the inspiration for the story on Sharon Creech's website.

Book: Ruby Holler
Author: Sharon Creech
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Original Publication Date: 2002
Pages: 310
Age Range: 8 to 12
Time Spent: 2 1/2 hours

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.