Center of Everything

Center of Everything

Book Information

Reader Personality Type
Harcourt, 2013

"Some say it was destiny. A brave sea captain, a freak storm, and a platter of puffy dough balls.”

"Across the street, there are people sitting on the milk crates now: a family of redheads are eating donuts and fanning themselves with parade programs. Beyond them, Ruby can see Nero at the Delish tent. He is tall and skinny, with knobby shoulders that make it look like his T-shirt still has a clothes hanger in it. His dark bangs are tucked up under a Delish cap, and he is clacking a pair of metal tongs like castanets, filling waxed bags with old-fashioneds and crullers and éclairs.

"Somewhere near the parade check-in area, Lucy is still fuming -- Ruby's pretty sure about that. But Nero doesn't seem upset. He is wearing the same carefree smile that all the DeNiros wear, watching Mr. DeNiro juggle five cider donuts in his plastic-gloved hands.

"Maybe Nero's forgotten about yesterday. Maybe he isn't mad after all.

"Ruby watches as Mr. DeNiro tosses the donuts one-two-three-four-five high in the air, one after another, and Niro catches them one-two-three-four in a white waxed bag, each donut landing exactly where it is destined to be. "Until, that is, Nero glances in Ruby's direction, and his DeNiro smile slides away. Donut number five drops not into the white waxed bag but at his feet.

"Destiny: squirrel food." On one hand, twelve year-old Ruby Pepperdine is the star of the show today. Her speech about the town's founder, brave Captain Bunning, was selected, making her this year's Bunning Day Essay Girl. In a few minutes, when the tail-end of the parade approaches, she will step up to a microphone with her index cards and have her moment in the spotlight. But everything is so wrong with Ruby and with this year's parade because her grandmother Gigi, the center of her world, and a force in town, is dead, and there is nothing Ruby can do about their last conversation together. On top of that, her best friend Lucy, and a very cool and quirky classmate, Nero, who has recently begun conversing with her, are both upset with her.

And I can still recall how sixth grade was the year when things got so weird as if some of the kids in the class seemed to have been provided a code that no one was sharing with me. This is what seems to be behind so much of what is going on with Ruby here.

In this small-town America story that takes place over the course of a single day in fictitious Bunning, New Hampshire, what I especially like about THE CENTER OF EVERYTHING is the real-ness of these three sixth-grade characters and their struggles with friendship. I also need to point to the cover of this book and note that it features a photograph of a girl who really looks twelve -- in contrast to far too many cover photos I saw last year where twelve year-old characters inside books were depicted unrealistically on covers as sex symbols. Kudos to the art director.

ISBN: 978-0-547-76348-4   208 pages.  Ages 9 & up.

Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS, Librarian, California USA See more of Richie's Picks at:


Just exactly what is the way things are "supposed to be?"

When you're nine and you have a wonderful grandmother named Gigi who takes you up to the rooftop to teach you the constellations while holding you tight in the circle of her arm, the world makes sense and all is as it is supposed to be. Ruby Pepperdine loves Gigi's world.  It's a world of Sweet Adelines, Grannies for Groceries, the Planetary Society of Night Owls and apple crisp. Nothing lasts forever.

As Gigi leaves the world, she gasps some final words.  "Listen." "It's all coming together...."  But Ruby doesn't listen and now she is left with a sense of having done it all wrong.  Just maybe if she'd listened as she was meant to, Gigi would still be here and the world would still make sense.  

We meet Ruby on the day of the Bunning Day Parade.  Ruby is the Bunning Day Essay Girl armed with her notecards and standing in her carefully taped square along the parade route waiting to recite her speech.  The entire town is either marching in the parade or standing along the sidelines cheering and watching as the police car leads the way, followed by the carefully constructed parade of veterans, Scout troops, horses and the schoolhouse float steeped in local lore.

Ruby has been waiting for this moment.  It is in this space and time that she is going to make her wish come true.  In your tenderest places you will recognize the vulnerability and confusion as Ruby hopes with all of her heart that the world does indeed make sense.  You'll be wishing right along with her.  

Ruby's best friend, Lucy,  is struggling with her lines in the play and Nero, a friend, is looking at the Seven Wonders of the World and serving up donuts.  

The only thing that's missing is Gigi and the order and rightness she brings with her.  Can Ruby find it again?  Can she discover a way to relive the moments where she lost her compass?  Thousands of years ago Greeks looked up at the sky and found pictures in the stars.  Will Ruby find Gigi's secret to understanding?

This is a sensitively, thoughtfully told story that will resonate with many young readers.  Everyone is looking for something and hoping it will come true.  Should you try to make everything be the way it's "supposed to be?" Just where is the center of everything?  

Ages 9-13  197 pages 

Recommended by:  Barb

Read alike for WAY DOWN DEEP by Ruth White, EVERYTHING ON A WAFFLE by Polly Horvath,  BELLE PRATER'S BOY by Ruth White, LOVE, RUBY LAVENDER by Deborah Wiles

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