Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Love, Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles

Love, Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles
Harcourt , Inc.
Children's Fiction (Ages 9-12)
199 pages, incl. reading guide and author interview

"This is Bemmie!" grunted Ruby, using a knee to shove Bemmie away from the door. "She's jealous because Ivy has eggs to sit on and she doesn't." Ruby pointed to Bess. "And that one - she's a pig. She only looks like a chicken." She laughed at her own joke. "Her name is Bess."
Dove gave a little wave. "Hey girls!"
Bemmie squawked and Bess gorged.
"They're not impressed by company," Ruby said.

"They sure make a lot of noise."

"They calm down at night, when I read to them."

I picked this book up off a shelf, yesterday afternoon, and gobbled it right up. Love, Ruby Lavender is the story of a 9-year-old girl living in Halleluia, Mississippi (which, I assume, is a fictional name - but we do have some interesting small-town names in MS). She adores her grandmother, who is lively and loves pink. At the beginning of the book, Ruby and her grandmother “rescue” (steal, actually) three chickens headed to slaughter and throughout the rest of the book, Ruby spends time reading to her chickens from the dictionary and lavishing them with care.

When Miss Eula, her grandmother, leaves to visit her son in Hawaii and the new grandbaby, Ruby isn’t sure quite what to do without her. She and her grandmother regularly write notes to each other and mail them via a secret hole in the roots of a chinaberry tree. They continue to write from a distance and Ruby eventually makes a new friend, Dove, who helps her understand herself and the child who torments her, Melba Jane. Ruby has a shared history with Melba Jane that is gradually revealed; and, the two of them are having trouble working things out so they can move past the grief and blame.

This is another book that I don’t feel I can do justice to. Ruby and Miss Eula are quite funny and their letters are a hoot. The book is jam-packed full of quirky characters and is incredibly family-friendly. Ruby's exclamation of surprise is, "Good garden of peas!" Nobody ever swears; it may be the cleanest book I've read in years. Both the humor and the more serious issues are handled with skill and grace. I jogged right over to add Deborah Wiles' next book, Each Little Bird That Sings, to my wish list. And, I'm sure I'll be giving Love, Ruby Lavender a reread when I'm in need of a quick upper.

5/5 - Good garden of peas! What a delightful, sweet, funny and meaningful little book.

Also, Love, Ruby Lavender would have been a great book for Maggie's Southern Reading Challenge, had I not balked at the idea of reading about the South in the summer. The fact that Ruby wiped sweat off her brow, waved away bees and scratched mosquito bites absentmindedly really gave the book the ring of truth.

It's 12:26 p.m. and the kiddo is asleep, again. His internal time clock is completely whacked up. Hubby says we're all backwards: the kiddo is on Australia time. I guess the two of them can hang out together at night, for a while.

In honor of the spouse's return, I have charged my cell phone! The cell phone sat in the bottom of my purse almost the entire time hubby was gone, batteries slowly draining. Nobody ever calls me except the husband and the eldest - occasionally the youngster, when he needs me to fetch him - and even if they do call, I don't answer if I'm driving. I just call back when I've stopped the car. Which explains why I never give anyone else my cell number - why bother if I'm not going to answer, anyway? If I'm not driving, they can catch me at home. I'm not very modern, am I?

Totally pointless anecdote that leads to a photo:

Up until a few years ago,
we had a line of holly bushes in front of our house. I'm not a fan of holly; it's difficult to trim and I got a rash if I brushed against it; little black wasps like to hide inside and they can get pretty feisty when you begin to give the bush a haircut. One year, I did a bunch of trimming and had little scrapes and rashes all over the place. I stood back and looked at my house. We hadn't intended to stay in the house for more than 5 years and we've been living in it for 16, now - probably, it had been about 10, at that point. The thought that we'd move on soon, very soon, along with allergies to you-name-it (including mosquito bites) kept me from doing much more than potting a couple of bright flowers for the porch each spring. Finally, one year, I decided it was time to make the front yard look like I really thought it ought to, so I asked the husband to tear out all the holly.

I think he was a little bemused, at first, but he picked up the shovel and started digging. We put a line of monkey grass along our cement path and filled one area completely (monkey grass is easy to grow), that first year. Then, the next year, we started experimenting with plants and worked on slowly trying to fix that nasty clay soil. I'm still learning what grows and what doesn't; and, some years the plants that usually work just keel over from the heat. This is one of those years. Typically, my impatiens are the size of bushes by July, but they look like I just planted them and then stood there insulting them rather than offering them a drink. We've alternated between intense, hot, dry spells and heavy rains; the plants don't care much for that. It's kind of messy because the humidity is driving me indoors, but here's what my porch looks like at the moment:

I love walking up the path to my front door, now. Isn't that nicer than a row of plain old stickery bushes? Even though it's been a bad year for plants, it still makes me smile.

While walking around outside, I found this under a tree beside the driveway:

The bottom side of that little egg looked like it had been pecked in a straight line and there were traces of tiny feathers, so I got the feeling that something did manage to hatch and then the egg was kicked from the tree. That marbly-looking surface it's sitting on is the bumper of our very old, very dead Nissan. Anyone need a dead Nissan? Come and get it; it's all yours if you're willing to haul it away.

Off to read a little, kick the kiddo and try to pry his jaws open like a baby bird to feed him, poor thing. He's a mess. Wishing you a happy day.

Bookfool in need of a pair of cymbals to wake the kid


  1. The front of your house is gorgeous! We have a bunch of impatients planted and they just look dreadful! They can't take this heat. I water them about three times a day, but they still just manage to look dead for the majority of the day. They'll perk up every now and then though.

    If you can't find cymbals, a nice, loud referee whistle may do the trick ;) You should start walking around the house with one of those around your neck, LOL!

  2. Thanks, Chris. It's not as colorful as it usually is because of those poor, miserable little impatiens; but, I'm happy. It's my favorite little garden area. The impatiens are having a terrible year, aren't they? I just water once a day, but the humidity has been so high that I skipped a couple of days, thinking it was going to storm. Sigh. I can either let the plants curl up or go out and get eaten alive by the skeeters. Some more flowers are gonna die. LOL

    Kiddo is up!!! I'm grateful that he finally woke up because I didn't want to have to stick ice cubes down his back. It was starting to concern me. I think it was his stomach that woke him up in the end. He's just eaten some apples and two fish sandwiches. No whistles necessary. Whew! :)

  3. I read this book when I co-chaired Battle of the Books at an elementary school. I really enjoyed it, too!

  4. Anonymous3:56 PM

    I love books with covers like that. I think hand drawn covers are terrific ! Makes you want to pick up and read :)
    Your porch looks wonderful. Plants are so soothing to the mind, don't you think ? God's beautiful creation ...

  5. Anonymous4:51 PM

    Nice looking yard.

    Oh, let the poor boy sleep. But then again, I might be projecting. I feel a migraine coming on. Bleargh.

  6. Let's see, what first.

    I remember hearing about Love, Ruby Lavender in one of my online groups. It seemed to be quite popular amongst those who enjoy Young Adult books. I'll have to snag a copy. You're review was lovely, as always.

    Ah, cell phones. I have to have mine handy all the time now since we don't have a land-line anymore. I still screen my calls, though. ;)

    Your flower bed is soothing to the eye! It must get some shade if those hostas do well there. I'm ready to add more perennials to our yard next spring. This was the summer for vacations, kayak, camera, and re-staining the deck. Ka-ching!

    Oh, back to the garden - I planted a ton of impatiens last year right before Memorial Day weekend. They sure looked pretty lining all the beds, but I decided to skip them this year since we'll be gone for two of the hottest/driest weeks of the summer and I hate to ask someone to come over and water every other day.

  7. Your porch is very nice. Do columbine grow in your area? I love them so much, and they come in such stunning color combinations.

    I'm glad your son ate finally. Sometimes they go through those phases where it doesn't seem like they are eating enough, but they get over it.

    There are times when it seems like all Logan ever does is eat (sending me to the store every stinkin' day for milk or crackers or something.) :)

  8. Joy,

    Isn't it a fun book? I've been telling all my teacher friends that they've just got to read it. :)

    Hi Gavin!!

    So glad to "see" you! I love that cover, too. It makes the book look friendly to me, if that makes sense. :)

    Thank you and, yes, definitely. Gardens are incredibly soothing. When we were in Ann Arbor and visited the botanical gardens, I realized that I was so transfixed by all that beauty that I wasn't bothered at all by the fact that my husband kept disappearing to talk on his BlackBerry. That kind of speaks for itself (his phone can get really tiresome, sometimes).


    Thanks. I'm pretty flexible about his sleep habits, really, but he got up just after I posted, thank goodness.

    Nasty migraines. I'm sorry you have one. They suck. I just can't find a better way to put it. Hope it leaves you alone, soon.

  9. Hi Les!

    Thanks. It's a really sweet little book. I hope you like it. :)

    I can't get rid of my land line, since we have DSL through the phone company, but I would definitely screen calls if we ever switched over to cell-only. It's fascinating how persistent telemarketers can be.

    Most of our front garden is cast in shade until about 3pm, so yep . . . lots of shade. We have two huge oak trees in front of the house; I was trying to estimate their diameters as I stood outside, yesterday. I'd say the larger of the two is about four feet in diameter, at the base, and it's probably around 100 feet tall. They probably save us a mint on air conditioning. :)

    Thank you. This was a big plant-buying year for us, since we didn't go far for vacation (well, one of us didn't). It's definitely an either-or proposition (nice camera accessory or extra flats of plants). I should have bought a new lens!! This has been a horrible year for plants!

    I had a friend water while we were in MI but a lot of things died. Impatiens are worth skipping if you're not going to be around to water, I agree!

  10. Hey Kookie!

    Thanks. There are some Southern varieties of columbine that are supposedly heat-tolerant, but the ones I've planted didn't last. They require a well-draining soil and we turn our soil and add things to loosen it, but it's clay and doesn't drain well below that top 8" or so. I wish I could keep them going; I love columbine, too.

    Well, my eldest has gone through non-eating phases but the youngest . . . we had to try to belt the fridge closed to keep him out of it, when he was around 2 (it didn't work). That kid likes to eat. It's kind of odd having one who is underweight and one who is broad and muscular. You can imagine the "little" younger brother is getting the "big" one back for years of torment. :)

    What is it about teenage boys and milk?

  11. I think you've inspired me to plant some bushes. Low maintenance and pretty. Why didn't I think of that before?

  12. Ha! Wish I knew. We go through about 2 1/2 gallons a week and I don't even touch the stuff! (I drink soy milk.) I thought that situation would get better once the oldest moved away, but it seems his father has decided to take up the slack. :P

  13. Very nice! H and I were recently discussing the lack of green in our neighbourhood (and house). :(

  14. Nik,

    I love being anyone's inspiration. Have fun with it! Gardening is an excellent way to fill time, get a little exercise and add some beauty to your life. I'd be out there all summer, if not for the heat and mosquitoes. :)


    My husband and I don't really drink milk but the kiddo drinks it like it's going out of style and when eldest son comes home, you almost get the feeling they'd fight for the milk, if we didn't keep them well supplied. Strange!


    Lack of green is something I'll never be able to complain about. We have to fight to keep the vines back. I thought it worked very well to start small and work our way up. Although, I'm saying "we" and really I'm the one who does all the digging, planting and trimming, now - David just occasionally gets drafted to pull out an errant tree or bush. We get a lot of "volunteer" growth that we don't want. :)

  15. Your porch looks cool!

  16. Thanks, myutopia. :)


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