Quail Ridge Books. CJ loved this teacher and of course, was excited about going. It would be nearly a year later that I would actually read a book by Deborah Wiles, which would be each little bird that sings. We have that copy at home, signed by this amazing author.
Soon after, I would read The Aurora County All-Stars, another phenomenal book...a book considered "Children's" fiction. Ha! This is more than that as I think of her books as so much more than that...
Imagine, nearly five years later and MiMi's 4th grade teacher is the same teacher CJ had. And as CJ did, she absolutely loves and thrives on her teacher's every word and encouragement. And coincidentally, I decided to get this book for her at the library, in my encouragement to have her read. I had forgotten that it was her teacher that got us started on Deborah Wiles, so it feels like we've come full circle.
Only...I _read_ the book. MiMi stopped after chapter one. So maybe she's not as captivated by Wiles as I am...but I am.
Ruby and Grandma Eula have a strong bond. They write letters to each other and leave it in a hole in the truck of the big silver maple tree off Sandy Lane. One day, Grandma Eula tells Ruby that she is going to visit her son in Hawaii, who is about to have his first baby. Ruby is not at all happy about that situation and begs her not to go. Grandma Eula explains that, after losing her husband, Grandpa Garnet, nearly a year ago, she needs to get away and move on with her life.
Ruby is bitter and doesn't even say goodbye to Grandma Eula, on the day she left Halleluia, MS. Ruby writes her grandmother nearly every day and makes it plain as day how upset she is. Her first letter starts:
Dear Miss Eula,
Well, you are gone. I hope you are happy. I am not.
and adds within the letter:
I am reading up on new babies and I have some free advice: Do NOT hug that grandbaby too much. It isn't good for her.And signs it with:
Woe is Me,More advice in subsequent letters:
Your (almost only--darn!) granddaughter,
More free advice: Always jiggle babies after they eat.
Free advice: Mama says pineapple is NOT good for young babies, so don't give any to that kid. Try hot chili peppers. Or poi.Her letters, and those from Miss Eula, are delightful and hilarious.
While Miss Eula is away, Ruby takes care of the three stolen chickens: Ivy, Bemmie, and Bess. Ivy has laid three eggs and Ruby watches over the jealous Bemmie and Bess, to make sure Ivy gets to take care of her eggs. She reads the dictionary to the chickens and also 'speaks' for them. It's just so adorable and delightful to read.
She makes friends with the new 4th grade teacher, and now-owner of Peterson's old Egg Ranch, Dove, who is studying to be an anthropologist. She also has a hate-hate relationship with Melba Jane, whose father was also killed in the accident that took Grandpa Garnet's life.
Deborah Wiles does not back away from death, as she has done in her two previous novels. And Grandpa Garnet and Melba Jane's dad's deaths are a touchy subject matter for a children's novel...I guess for some parents...not for me. There is some deep-rooted emotions between Ruby and Melba Jane and it results in tragic consequences for Ruby's chickens.
While my eyes watered for this one, I didn't shed actual tears but my heart grew heavy and uplifted so many times in this novel. Ruby Lavender is one character you don't want to forget, or even stop reading about. Deborah Wiles is an amazing author and, as I've said before, I look forward to reading more and more from her. You should too.