Friday, July 17, 2015

Ruby on the Outside by Nora Raleigh Baskin

I will never forget Tevin’s story. After reading Jacqueline Woodson’s amazing (and somewhat autobiographical) book Visiting Day to my class, a kindergartner asked who is it harder for: the child leaving or the parent who cannot leave the prison. Silence filled our room as we pondered this heartbreaking and difficult question. Then Tevin spoke. He said, “For the father. I would know. I leave my dad every time I see him in prison.”

I sat blinking back tears. Tevin rarely spoke in our classroom. He told us this truth in June—I had no idea his father was in prison.  As is always true, I had so much to learn.

I still have so much to learn. It is from deeply authentic and transparent stories like Woodson’s and now Baskin’s that help others like me make sense of a world I know nothing about (prison) and the feelings, trials, and choices that children of men and women that live in prison. Ruby on the Outside is that kind of book. This is a novel about a young teen who lives with her aunt in a new-to-her town. Ruby makes friends with another girl who moves in, but she very works hard to keep all of her experiences and stories about her incarcerated mother completely hidden from Margalit, her new friend.

True to form, successful young adult writers must capture the reader immediately. Here are the first two paragraphs of the book:
“It’s all she’s known her whole life, Matoo explains to her friends on the phone when she thinks I can’t hear her. “Ruby doesn’t remember anything different, so for her it’s normal,” she says about me.

But Matoo is wrong...”
Baskin, page 1

Baskin, author of Anything But Typical among other titles, absolutely captured me in this text. I didn’t want it to end. I can imagine me as a child loving this book. Yep, it’s a keeper for me!!

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