“The best thing about third grade was absolutely everything” until Ruby Lu’s family is faced with hard times in the recession. Economics lessons are understandable for children as Ruby Lu’s dad is laid off and her mom goes back to work resulting in changes that affect the family and ultimately lead to lessons in helping others and building character—even when the choices are painful. Sacrifice can sometimes lead to great rewards like being the “star of the show”. Short chapters make this a good choice for intermediate and reluctant readers. 136 pages.
Recommended by Beth Yankey, Librarian
The irrepressible heroine of Ruby Lu, Brave and True, and Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything returns for a third outing in this charming story. Ruby is starting third grade, and is looking forward to all the changes, and all the new, exciting things she will be able to do, like joining the knitting, ballroom dancing, and yoga clubs. But she is particularly excited about going to dog training with her new dog, Elvis, who she had adopted after he mysteriously appeared on her doorstep over the summer. While Elvis had many amazing skills, like riding a bicycle and balancing plates and balls, he would not obey Ruby, and she was anxious to be able to have him follow her commands. But one change that Ruby isn’t expecting comes about when her father loses his job. This is an especially big change, and it means many other things change, and not for the better. Money is tight, and the dog obedience training is cancelled. Ruby’s mother must go to work support the family, leaving Ruby and Oscar to adjust to her father's caretaking, which is definitely not all fun and games. Her mother comes home tired, and her father grows grumpy with frustration at not being able to find another job. Ruby is determined to change things, and begins to make plans for making a million dollars! But, as she discovers, making money isn't easy. Frustrated by the difficult times, Ruby is particularly baffled when, after finding a wallet filled with a sizable amount of cash, her family insists on making an all-out attempt to find the owner, rather than using the money to pay the taxes. But worst of all is when a man shows up claiming to be Elvis’s real owner, and Ruby has to face the loss of her beloved pet.
This is another gem of a story from author Lenore Look. Ruby and her family are involved in an all too familiar situation these days, as they have to cope with the loss of a job, and all that the reduced income means. Ruby’s reactions ring true, as do those of other members of the family as they attempt to adjust to their new circumstances. It is refreshing to find a portrayal in literature of a family that faces this adversity with teamwork and togetherness, even as they cope with Ruby’s mother’s fatigue and her father’s growing despair as the possibility of a new job seems to keep receding. The advice she receives from her friends, and her inventive but ill-fated attempts to earn money herself add gentle humor to the tale. When Ruby finds the wallet her bafflement is clear when her parents refuse to simply use the windfall to their advantage, and instead insist on doing what they consider the right thing, by trying to return the money to its rightful owner. When this attempt fails, Ruby’s father engages in an act of selfless generosity that bears surprising fruit in the neighborhood. This ethical conundrum, which could so easily be heavy-handed, is instead treated deftly and with a light touch. That Ruby has absorbed the lesson becomes apparent when she faces a similar dilemma with the possible loss of her dog to its rightful owner. In the end, it is clear that Ruby has learned that having a loving family is the most valuable thing of all. This is a funny, charming, heartfelt story that should be enjoyed by many young readers. 140 pages Ages 8-10
Recommended by: Linda Lucke, Learning Center Director