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Ruby Lu Series

Book review by
Carrie Kingsley, Common Sense Media
Ruby Lu Series Book Poster Image
Spirited Ruby faces changing family, friends in fun series.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

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.

Positive Messages

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 & Representations

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.

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.

Language

What 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. 

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What's the story?

In the RUBY LU series, spirited and fabulous 8-year-old Ruby's life is turned upside down when her cousin, Flying Duck, emigrates from China to live with her. Ruby loves the idea of having a new friend, but when Flying Duck's family is there, Ruby's family stops speaking English at home. And, since Flying Duck is deaf, Ruby has to try even harder to help her fit in with the group of friends on 20th Avenue South, at the swim lessons Ruby already hates, and at school. Then there's Ruby's little brother, Oscar, whom she loves -- except when he's getting into her stuff or telling her secrets. But he's a great passenger when she decides to drive the family car to Chinese school early one Saturday morning ...

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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about immigration and multigenerational families. When Flying Duck's family moves in with Ruby Lu's family, what does everyone do to help the new situation to work? What would you want to do if you were Ruby?

  • Have you ever been nervous in new situations? What can you do to stop being nervous?

  • Have you been in a situation where it was hard to do the right thing? How did you decide what to do?

Book details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love Asian-American characters and immigrant stories

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