by Judith Hayn
Child, L. (2012). Ruby Redfort take your last breath. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
McDonald, A. (2013). Jane Austen goes to Hollywood. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
A recently published book for middle school girls, recommended for summer reading fun, features heroine Ruby Redfort—the most recent Lauren Child character to star in her own series. Ruby at 13 is a full-fledged Sprectrum secret agent due to her amazing skills as a code cracker and her performance in previous adventures. This escapade is set in the mysterious waters off the coast of an English village where Ruby lives. A search for sunken treasure, attacks by nefarious pirates, unexplainable oceanic behavior, whispering voices speaking only to young people, and murderous villains beset Ruby as she tries to solve the puzzles and save some lives. She is aided by the family “butler” Hitch, her Spectrum mentor and by Clancy, her best friend who is the only outsider who knows about her employment. The plot moves at a wicked pace, but Ruby is the driving force of the story with her predilection for irreverence, along with her ever-present curiosity. Tweens and young teen girls will adore Ruby and this sea saga filled with predictable and unpredictable perils; an interactive website helps the reader connect and join the hunt.
Older teens will lap up Lauren Child’s adaptation of Sense and Sensibility and appreciate the two sisters who relive the familiar story, with just enough differences exist to keep the reader guessing. Grace and Hallie lose their father twice, first to a gold digging young step-mother and a new baby brother; then Dad dies unexpectedly. He has no will, so Portia tosses the girls and their flighty artist mother out of their San Francisco mansion. Mom’s wealthy cousin/TV producer Auggie and his youthful former starlet wife lend them a fabulous guest house, but the family must move to L.A. At 16, Grace is quiet and studious, always the peacemaker, who has fallen for Portia’s younger brother in what seems to be unrequited love. Older sister Hallie is the tempestuous drama queen who flips over a rising rock star, and her adoration derails her quest to be an actress. The plot twists and turns in true Jane Austen fashion, providing a rollicking and relaxing vacation read.
If you like the way books like these reach out to teens, join SIGNAL, the Special Interest Network—Adolescent Literature, and receive YAL themed journals with more reviews and teaching ideas.
Dr. Judith A. Hayn is an associate professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
This article is part of a series from the Special Interest Group Network on Adolescent Literature (SIGNAL).