I won an ARC of this book last year courtesy of THE WRITE STUFF. Rosi Hollinbeck is the creator of that blog and shares many of the reviews she does for the San Francisco and Sacramento Book Reviews. Go check out her site as she has frequent giveaways of the books she loves to share.
RUBY LEE & ME is set in 1969 North Carolina during the time of school segregation. Young Sarah is worried, but this confusing, grown-up topic is overshadowed when little sister, Robin, is run over by a car while in her care.
Sarah’s spot on narration brings us into that confusing time, though not real deep. It’s more about the shame she feels for letting her sister down and the crumbling relationship with Ruby Lee, a black girl who she had shared a friendship. With seventh grade approaching, her sister in a body cast, and a confusing future ahead, Sarah must make tough choices to make the future feel right.
PUBLICATION DATE: 2016 PAGE COUNT: 224
FULL PLOT (From AMAZON) Everything’s changing for Sarah Beth Willis. After Robin’s tragic accident, everyone seems different somehow. Days on the farm aren’t the same, and the simple fun of riding a bike or playing outside can be scary. And there’s talk in town about the new sixth-grade teacher at Shady Creek. Word is spreading quickly–Mrs. Smyre is like no other teacher anyone has ever seen around these parts. She’s the first African American teacher. It’s 1969, and while black folks and white folks are cordial, having a black teacher at an all-white school is a strange new happening. For Sarah Beth, there are so many unanswered questions. What is all this talk about Freedom Riders and school integration? Why can’t she and Ruby become best friends? And who says school isn’t for anybody who wants to learn–or teach? In a world filled with uncertainty, one very special teacher shows her young students and the adults in their lives that change invites unexpected possibilities.
FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT: RUBY LEE & ME by Shannon Hitchcock
- Twelve year old Sarah often drives her grandparent’s truck while visiting or staying at their farm. She’s quite the good driver, even when the car behind her has flashing red lights!
- The uneasiness of this time period will be a real eye opener for readers. In many respects you can compare it with what is still going on in many of our cities with shootings and racial divide.
- A three generation supportive family is a welcome aside to the story. In recent MG offerings you rarely get the feeling of family as a loving group of people spanning the generations.
- You can’t help but get hungry or thirsty reading this tale. There’s cooking and food throughout that sent me right to the kitchen.
- Sarah goes to her town’s librarian for answers to many of her tough questions her parents can’t seem to answer. This special person helps Sarah understand. A secondary character with a true purpose.
FAVORITE LINES: Instead of easing up on the steering wheel, I clenched my jaw too. I felt guilty that Ruby couldn’t swim in the town pool or have a hamburger at Bubba’s Grill. Sometimes grown-ups made stupid rules and were slow to change them, especially in Shady Creek.
AUTHOR QUOTE: Though I loved stories, I had trouble learning to read. Our first grade teacher divided the class into three reading circles. The Blue Birds were the best readers; the Red Birds were the second best readers, and the Yellow Birds were last. I was a Yellow Bird and ashamed of myself.
But that changed with the help of two wonderful teachers. Mrs. Pauline Porter patiently taught me to read. With her help, I moved from a Yellow Bird, to a Red Bird, and finally to the coveted Blue Bird reading circle.
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Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.