Ruby Lu

RubyLuCover 

RUBY LU, BRAVE AND TRUE

By Lenore Look, Illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf

 

Published by: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (March 1, 2004)

Available in: paperback, hardcover, Kindle, NOOK

At the time of this review three books in the Ruby Lu series.

 

Bright as reflective tape.

Ruby Lu, Brave and True charms with ease. She’s a girl who immediately invites newly independent readers into her world—slugs, sweaters and all. She’s gutsy and genuine and kid-on-the-corner recognizable. Rather than a turbulent run of action, Ruby’s story is more plum trees, sibling rivalry/love and the frustrations and joys of everyday life.

There are two things I like best about Ruby Lu. First, her interests are so very visual and normal: a baby brother, a new neighbor, foggy mornings, magic shows and cousins. And second, a major component is her Chinese American culture, woven into the story with subtle elegance. Much as author Look does with her other chapter book series, Alvin Ho, Ruby Lu eases the reader into the Asian American experience. Through foods, traditions, the bother of Chinese school on Saturdays, a tight-knit family dynamic and a neat little Chinese American glossary at the back, we don’t get told about the reality of Ruby’s life, we live it with her.

Written in third person, there were moments I wished to be in Ruby’s head more directly. But this is perhaps a personal preference. With many chapter books written in first person, perhaps it is more the jolting difference in voice that makes this stand out.

Originally illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf, some later formats and versions carry illustrations by Stef Choi. I personally prefer Wilsdorf’s more loose, energetic work as it perfectly captures Ruby’s free spirit. But Choi’s drawings reflect a cartoonish, mass market-style that children will no doubt like for the color and bold ambiance.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….

 

Year One Re-Post #12: Alvin Ho

Originally published in November 2013. There are very few chapter books with Asian protagonists, so Alvin is a welcome young man in the chapter book genre. 

alvinHo cover

ALVIN HO: ALLERGIC TO DEAD BODIES, FUNERALS, AND OTHER FATAL CURCUMSTANCES (ALVIN HO #4)

By Lenore Look, Illustrated by Leuyen Pham

 

Published by: Schwartz & Wade; Reprint edition (September 13, 2011)

Available in: paperback, hardcover, Kindle, NOOK, audible audio edition

At the time of this review, there were five books in Alvin Ho series.

 

Alvin Ho is afraid. And it is hilarious.

The Alvin Ho series centers on a second grade boy who takes us on a comedy of errors through word play, common childhood mix-ups and a good dose of self-deprecation. This kid is terrified, and while the writing make us laugh through it all, we are also allowed to take it all very seriously.

In this particular book, the fear of going to a funeral guides a plot that explodes with miscues and misunderstandings. Through misinformation from friends, Alvin envisions a wake where the body sits up and heads to the pub because he’s hungry while somebody’s dead grandma sits around the DMV. Funny, funny stuff.

And yet, it touches on real fears and realities: most kids haven’t gone to a funeral and don’t know what to expect. Most kids also get their information from friends.

The human relationships are absolutely heartwarming. A main component of the drama is played out through intergenerational action, from grandparents who don’t get mad to a younger sister who gives Alvin a piece of her prized blankie. And yet, the relationships are real. We are told the older brother can really kick his butt, and the younger sister is generally in his way. Totally normal stuff.

Alvin’s Chinese heritage is a big part of the story as well, but never in a loud, in-your-face way. Cultural aspects are woven subtly and with skill: we understand that Alvin and his family have certain qualities and customs, but those neither tell the whole story nor are left out of it. Brilliantly, naturally done.

The ink illustrations, while thoroughly modern, have a throwback feel that bolsters the humor of the text. For instance, one drawing shows an older woman with a very ‘50s vibe of curly hair, fur coat and stout build. She holds the leash of a funny little dog that sniffs at Alvin’s ankle.

Scaredy-cat or not, Alvin Ho is a real winner.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….

 

Freaked Out Alvin Ho

 

ALVIN HO: ALLERGIC TO DEAD BODIES, FUNERALS, AND OTHER FATAL CURCUMSTANCES (ALVIN HO #4)

By Lenore Look, Illustrated by Leuyen Pham

 

Published by: Schwartz & Wade; Reprint edition (September 13, 2011)

Available in: paperback, hardcover, Kindle, NOOK, audible audio edition

At the time of this review, there were five books in Alvin Ho series.

 

Alvin Ho is afraid. And it is hilarious.

The Alvin Ho series centers on a second grade boy who takes us on a comedy of errors through word play, common childhood mix-ups and a good dose of self-deprecation. This kid is terrified, and while the writing make us laugh through it all, we are also allowed to take it all very seriously.

In this particular book, the fear of going to a funeral guides a plot that explodes with miscues and misunderstandings. Through misinformation from friends, Alvin envisions a wake where the body sits up and heads to the pub because he’s hungry while somebody’s dead grandma sits around the DMV. Funny, funny stuff.

And yet, it touches on real fears and realities: most kids haven’t gone to a funeral and don’t know what to expect. Most kids also get their information from friends.

The human relationships are absolutely heartwarming. A main component of the drama is played out through intergenerational action, from grandparents who don’t get mad to a younger sister who gives Alvin a piece of her prized blankie. And yet, the relationships are real. We are told the older brother can really kick his butt, and the younger sister is generally in his way. Totally normal stuff.

Alvin’s Chinese heritage is a big part of the story as well, but never in a loud, in-your-face way. Cultural aspects are woven subtly and with skill: we understand that Alvin and his family have certain qualities and customs, but those neither tell the whole story nor are left out of it. Brilliantly, naturally done.

The ink illustrations, while thoroughly modern, have a throwback feel that bolsters the humor of the text. For instance, one drawing shows an older woman with a very ‘50s vibe of curly hair, fur coat and stout build. She holds the leash of a funny little dog that sniffs at Alvin’s ankle.

Scaredy-cat or not, Alvin Ho is a real winner.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….