by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Published June 2015
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Middle Grade Fiction
Review copy provided by publisher
Ruby’s mom is in prison, and to tell anyone the truth is to risk true friendship in this novel that accurately and sensitively addresses a subject too often overlooked.
Eleven-year-old Ruby Danes is about to start middle school, and only her aunt knows her deepest, darkest, most secret secret: her mother is in prison.
Then Margalit Tipps moves into Ruby’s condo complex, and the two immediately hit it off. Ruby thinks she’s found her first true-blue friend—but can she tell Margalit the truth about her mom? Maybe not. Because it turns out that Margalit’s family history seems closely connected to the very event that put her mother in prison, and if Ruby comes clean, she could lose everything she cares about most.
Some might pick up this book and think that it is just about a young girl whose mother is in prison. It is about that, but it is also about love, the power of having one true friend and dealing with what life hands you. Ruby has lived with her aunt whom she calls Mattoo since her mom went to prison several years prior. She visits her mother each Saturday, but has given up hope of seeing her mother get out of prison any time "soon". When she was younger, she never wanted to know much about the circumstances that landed her mother in prison. She just treasured the time she had with her and hoped with all her might that one of these visits, her mother would come home with her.
When Ruby meets Margalit, lots of things change. Finally Ruby feels like she has a shot at having a true friend. The author carefully develops this friendship and makes you feel their happiness and Ruby's pull to want to trust Margalit. Through her genuine interest and obvious desire to befriend Ruby, Margalit is able to get Ruby to peek through her wall of protection.
Ruby fears that the secret of having a mother in jail might be too much for her new friend to accept. When she learns more about her mother's crime and discovers that it might somehow be related to a tragedy in Margalit's family, Ruby is forced to deal with strong, new emotions. Anger, fear, guilt and betrayal are all starting to bubble to the surface as she tries desperately to hide her secret.
In a mere 176 pages, Nora Raleigh Baskin tells a story that makes you fall in love with the main character and root for her as she navigates the complex and confusing world in which she lives. This book is a page-turner because you just HAVE to discover how it all turns out in the end.
I can not wait to share Ruby on the Outside with my fourth graders this year. Ruby deals with many of the complexities of friendship and trust that many students in late elementary and middle school face. I think fans of books like Lynda Mullaly Hunt's One for the Murphy's will particularly enjoy it. This book would make a wonderful read aloud, book club book or independent read.
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