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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers will learn a little about Chinese culture and language, different kinds of sign language, and a lot about emotional intelligence and growth. At the end of most books is a glossary of both English and Cantonese words.
These books are chock-full of great messages for kids. Don't give up; always try your best. Be compassionate and brave; put yourself in someone else's shoes. Know that feeling afraid is normal, but can be overcome.
Positive Role Models
Ruby's parents and teachers are real (they face their own adult struggles), but show nothing but kindness and positivity toward Ruby and her friends. They are honest about the hardships they face when, for example, Ruby's dad loses his job, but they also reassure Ruby that everything will be fine. Ruby is Chinese American and her world is full of divrse characters.
Violence & Scariness
The stories can sometimes pack an emotional hit -- such as having to give away a beloved pet, a parent's unemployment, or an extended fight with a friend -- but the sadness or anxiety doesn't last for than a chapter or so.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Lenore Look's Ruby Lu series stars an 8-year-old Chinese American girl and emphasizes overcoming fear of the unknown. For Ruby, this means facing her dad's unexpected long-term unemployment, summer school, swim lessons that terrify her, and disagreements with friends. These aren't easy issues, but the series presents them in the straightforward way kids often approach complex situations. Ruby tries to navigate the cultural tug-of-war between her day-to-day life with a diverse group of friends on 20th Avenue South and the life her grandparents had in China, a task made harder when her deaf cousin, Flying Duck, immigrates right into Ruby's bedroom. A great choice for families looking for books featuring diverse characters.
Is It Any Good?
The message throughout this series -- always try to be a good person and do the right thing, even when it's hard -- is rock solid. And it's reinforced with silly adventures, tough circumstances, and poignant moments. Ruby's situations are relatable -- she's terrified of swim lessons, sometimes picks fights with her friends because she's upset about something else, and wants to do her best but doesn't always know how. Ruby's multicultural neighborhood and immigrant family bring a refreshing perspective that's often missing in children's books.
However, the writing in the Ruby Lu series might not grab reluctant readers, especially those who don't read the series installments in order. The later books don't describe the characters very well, so the premise could be confusing.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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Our Editors Recommend
Books with Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander Characters
Kids' Books About the Immigrant Experience
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate