This is the beautiful follow up to Ruby Red Shoes, and I’m so thrilled that I was able to find both the books at the same time so I could read straighThis is the beautiful follow up to Ruby Red Shoes, and I’m so thrilled that I was able to find both the books at the same time so I could read straight from one to another. (I’ve also noticed these books popping up in a few more of my local book shops, which is excellent to see.)
In this story, Ruby and her Grandmother are on their way to Paris where they connect with family and explore the city. There’s not much more of a story than that, much like the first book. Instead, we the readers are given a tour through a world both different and familiar to ours, a little like a good travel narrative. We see more of what Ruby’s thinking here, through her letters home to her french speaking chickens and through the notebook entries she makes – almost always about noticing beautiful things.
The beauty of Paris is something which is strongly shown through the book, both through the whimsical illustrations and through the gorgeous, descriptive text.
“The sun is barely awake when Ruby sleepily opens one eye and hears the song of Paris wafting through the window. “It’s a chorus of tooting scooters, bicycle bells, delivery trucks inching down narrow laneways, ladies shoes clipping on cobblestone pavements and a harmony of delicate chinks as coffee cups kiss their saucers.”
You could definitely get a wonderful writing project inspired by the way Ruby writes about what she sees. I really love the way the book shows how Ruby records more than just plain descriptions, showing how she makes connections to the rest of her world. Of course there could also be a great project of writing Ruby Red Shoes fanfiction, sending her off to different parts of the world.
The Ruby Red Shoes books are a little different compared to a lot of other childrens books. They don’t feel like picture books, yet they’re not really beginner reader or middle grades books. I get the feeling we’re going to see more and more books of this kind moving into the future, particularly as graphic novels are now more present and available. Hopefully more stories about Ruby Red Shoes are also in the future.
I first heard about Ruby Red Shoes when I was wrapping up the 2014 Readings Children’s Book Prize (where its sequel was shortlisted). It certainly looI first heard about Ruby Red Shoes when I was wrapping up the 2014 Readings Children’s Book Prize (where its sequel was shortlisted). It certainly looked beautiful, but at the time neither the original or its sequel were easily found in my local bookshops or department stores, so I filed it away in the ‘nice to read it if I ever find it’ part of my mind.
Thankfully, a month or so ago, I did find both the books at my local Target (of all places) and my son then pulled them out of one of my many ‘to read’ piles and insisted on them. So we cuddled together on the couch and were introduced to the lovely world of Ruby (and her Red Shoes)
There’s really no plot to this book. Instead it’s an extended introduction to Ruby and her world and the philosophy her grandmother is using to bring her up. Ruby is a white hare who lives in a beautiful caravan with her grandmother, who wants her to be an aware hare – to treat the feelings of others with great care. We learn about her garden and her Francophile chickens who prefer croissants and baguettes to breadcrumbs and cheat at passionfruit soccer.
This is an incredibly calming book. The illustrations are soft and pretty with lots of gentle curves and the text is full of comforting words and phrases like ‘warm and cosy’ and ‘places to drift off and snooze’. My particular favourite paragraph talks about the caravan Ruby and her grandmother share and how it’s full of things they love:
“There are generous teacups for hot drinks feathery quilts to snuggle up in jars of colourful buttons and posies of flowers in pots and jugs”
This reminded me of so many friends and the way they fill their homes with warmth and beauty. To share this with a child is like sharing an ideal of a warm and cosy home, while reminding them that things we cherish aren’t necessarily the big and expensive.
As soon as we finished reading it (well, around the time my son was insisting we read it again), I knew I wanted to share this little gem of a book with other people. With the friends who create little nests for their families, for my mother in law who would just fall absolutely in love with the chickens, with my mother who would fall in love with the art throughout and with other children who’d just like to step into such a beautiful world.
This would also be a wonderful book to use in the classroom when talking about settings and feelings of a story. I think there could also be a particularly interesting conversation about books and stories without plots and of course it would be brilliant for a quiet readaloud during a hectic day....more
Although I really enjoy short stories, I don’t usually seek out anthologies of them. Sometimes I find them at libraries and grab them and sometimes IAlthough I really enjoy short stories, I don’t usually seek out anthologies of them. Sometimes I find them at libraries and grab them and sometimes I buy them because of a connection to friends of mine, but they’re not usually the first thing I reach for. This anthology, however, might be the one that makes me look at short story anthologies differently.
Years Best YA Speculative Fiction began with an excellent introduction to the landscape through 2013 and – just to make my wallet groan – also included references to a number of YA speculative novels published through the year. Then it was on to the short stories and I suddenly ‘got’ the idea of a Years Best – these were magnificent.
There’s too many stories to go through individually, but there were a number which have just stuck with me, that I’ve returned to in my head since I’ve read them, just hoping for a little more taste of the world’s they offered. By Bone-Light by Juliet Marillier was probably the most long lasting of all of them – it felt haunting, yet slightly frantic and I really felt that I was there with the protagonist. There would be so many things to examine and savour with a class of students. The Carpet by Nnedi Okorafor gave me chills – I really shouldn’t read stories like that before bed. I Gave You My Love by the Light of the Moon by Sarah Rees Brennan felt so very complete – it was such a strong world in such a short amount of time.
As an Ancient History graduate, I always love the way Tansy Rayner Roberts mixes the familiar stories and legends of the ancient world with different worlds – as she does here in The Minotaur Girls. An Echo in the Shell by Beth Cato, was achingly sad, while opening up so many opportunities for other stories, so many questions about others in that world. Random Play All and the League of Awesome by Shane Halbach is another reminder that I really like stories with superheroes, even if I get overwhelmed by the established superhero worlds. What We Ourselves Are Not by Leah Cypess raised so so many questions for me, that I felt like I was having a philosophical argument with myself while and after reading it.
Persimmon, Teeth and Boys by Steve Berman was happy and sad and another one which raised questions for me. Finally there was We Have Always Lived on Mars by Cecil Castellucci which actually made me gasp aloud at the ending – I had to go back and read it again to make sure I’d read what I thought I’d read.
This is truly a fabulous exploration of YA Speculative Fiction and a wonderful look at the landscape of 2013. We can see ideas being explored and questions being asked, but we also see a background of being a young adult which is terribly familiar. It’s a book which would be fabulous in a school setting – as a book to borrow from the library (I would have adored it as a teenager) or a book to explore in the classroom. It’s also a book which is incredibly accessible to an adult audience – proving that stories about teenagers are as important as stories about older people.
(Disclaimer – I am friends with one of the editors. However, I bought this book myself and all opinions are mine.)
Most people know of the Jersey Shore as a holiday destination, but for Lucy it’s her home. In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, she’s dealing with seMost people know of the Jersey Shore as a holiday destination, but for Lucy it’s her home. In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, she’s dealing with seeing her home and community torn apart, as well as dealing with the fallout from a hurried relationship with the boy who spends his summers in the house next to hers.
This was a really sweet YA romance which reminded me a lot of Sarah Dessen and Joan Bauer books. I love YA books when the characters are invested in something else than just the romance, when they have interests and passions which they follow and enjoy. Lucy is incredibly interested in marine wildlife and volunteers with wildlife rehabilitation. You can really tell through the book that this is something which is important to her – that’s she’s a multi-dimensional character.
The relationships between Lucy, her twin brother and her parents is a fantastic part of the book as well. They are all showing the impacts of the storm and the stresses they’ve been through in having their home damaged and in rebuilding. I felt those stresses, and the way the family dealt (or didn’t deal) with them felt very realistic.
I live in a part of world which sees its fair share of natural disasters, so it was fabulous to see a book which dealt with the aftermath of a massive event. I’d love to see more books like that in the Australian market, since our country deals with so many events each year.
The romance part of the book was sweet, but probably a little more formulaic in comparison with the rest of the book. There were the usual misunderstandings and longing looks which you find in most YA romances – they’re fun when you’re reading them, but they don’t stay with you the way the other elements of this book did.
All in all, a good fun read which I’m sure will be enjoyed by many.