Diane Prather: ‘Love, Ruby Lavender’ a humorous, heartwarming novel
Halleluia, Miss., is the setting for this week’s young adult novel.
The town of Halleluia has a population of “400 good friendly folks and a few old soreheads.” It’s also where 9-year-old Ruby Lavender lives.
“Love, Ruby Lavender” was written by Deborah Wiles, who cleverly used some letters exchanged between Ruby and her grandmother to help tell the story.
Thus, the book’s title.
The reader meets Ruby and Miss Eula Dapplevine, Ruby’s grandmother, during a chicken robbery (well, sort of).
The “Agricultural Page” of the June 3 edition of Aurora County News carries a story about Lucius Peterson’s retirement.
After 45 years, Peterson’s Egg Ranch will shut down, and the old hens will be sold off to become drumsticks and chicken a la king.
Now, Miss Eula is known for her animal rights beliefs, and she doesn’t take the news of the hens’ coming demise lightly.
In fact, she decides that some of the hens should live.
So, Miss Eula, with Ruby along as an accomplice, drives past the fish pond, the Baptist Church, the cemetery of dead Baptists and the fire department to the Peterson Ranch. All of these places are drawn on a map of Halleluia found at the beginning of the book.
At the ranch, Ruby and Miss Eula wave their arms and warn the chickens to run for their lives. Chickens fly up at Lucius Peterson. Some run out into a field. Ruby grabs up three red hens, throws them into the getaway car and she and Miss Eula flee the scene. Three hens won’t be turned in to chicken dinners.
Ivy, Bennie and Bess, the three hens, settle into the old greenhouse behind the Pink Palace, Miss Eula’s home. Ruby’s house is next door.
It’s just Ruby, Miss Eula and Evelyn, Ruby’s mother, now. Ruby’s father left years ago. Ruby’s mother is Aurora County’s extension agent for home and garden.
Miss Eula’s husband and Ruby’s grandfather died a year ago. The book’s beginning hints at an “accident,” but the circumstances are mysterious. Since the accident, Ruby takes the long way into town.
Ruby and her grandmother have a close relationship, even leaving letters to one another in the roots of a silver maple tree behind the post office.
It’s in a letter that Ruby tells Miss Eula that Ivy is sitting on three eggs.
Ruby’s excitement is short-lived, however. For one thing, Melba Jan’s Latham, a girl about Ruby’s age, begins to torment Ruby. She calls Ruby a “chicken” and makes chicken sounds.
The continual “tap tap tap” sounds from the “million thumbtacks” in the soles of her shoes drives Ruby crazy.
Secondly, Miss Eula has decided to go to Hawaii to visit her son, wife and new baby daughter. Ruby feels like she’s being abandoned.
Ruby spends her time writing letters to her grandmother and trying to come up with a disappearing potion for Melba.
The mystery, woven into the book’s plot, begins to unravel.
All the while, Ivy sits on her eggs.
The author has captured the thoughts of a feisty 9-year-old in this humorous and yet heartwarming novel that’s meant for readers of ages 8 to 12.
“Love, Ruby Lavender” was published by Gulliver Books (2001). The hardcover book is $16.00 in hardcover.
Copyright Diane Prather (2007). All rights reserved.
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