Author: Deborah WilesPublisher: Harcourt, Inc., 2001
Reviewer: Sharon M. Himsl
Ages: 8 to 12, Middle Grade
This is the second book I have read by middle grade author Deborah Wiles. My first was Each Little Bird That Sings (2005). Both are refreshing, funny and heartwarming. Wiles is a master at ‘showing/not telling’ and weaves a tale with characters that stay with you long after you finish. Travel to Halleluia, Mississippi and meet nine-year-old Ruby Lavender and her chickens—Ivy, Bemmie and Bess. Meet Ruby’s grandmother, Miss Eula, who drives the get-away car when they rescue the chickens from going to the slaughterhouse. Life is good in Halleluia, or at least manageable with Miss Eula around, but when Miss Eula takes off for Hawaii to see her new grandbaby, Ruby is devastated. How will she ever take care of the chickens on her own? One is about to give birth! And how will she ever deal with mean-spirited, “tip-tapping” Melba Jane? Ruby and Melba Jane share a past that neither can talk about: the tragic loss of two people they loved very much, a grandfather and a father—two lives that were lost together on one rainy night a year ago. The resolution comes in the most unconventional way. Be prepared to shed a tear and laugh at the same time. Love, Ruby Lavender was written over ten years ago, but that is the beauty of children's books. They can take on a second life and then some. This is one of them.