Ruby on the Outside

Book review by Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
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Common Sense says

age 8+

Honest, affecting story of fifth-grader with mom in prison.

Parents say

age 10+

Based on 1 review

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Community Reviews

age 10+

Parent Review of Appropriate Content

*CONTAINS SPOILERS* I pre-read this book before I gave it to my 7 year old to make sure it was appropriate for her since there weren't any reviews on CSM. Here are some things you may want to consider before deciding if the book is OK for your younger child: As the description states, the book is about a parent who is in jail. The protagonist, Ruby, lives with her loving aunt and doesn't really remember much about her life before her mother was arrested. Her mother is a loving and supportive parent, as much as she can be behind bars, and her aunt tries to be there for her in any way she can. Ruby is a good kid, a good student, and tries to make the right choices. This book discusses drug use on a few occasions. It mentions that Ruby's stepfather (whom she does not remember) was a drug addict, how he got a reduced sentence for turning in a higher-up drug dealer, how some minor characters were imprisoned for merely being present during a drug bust that they didn't know they were at, and how drugs can possibly be smuggled into prison. All of these details are stated rather matter-of-factly and with little detail or embellishment. The protagonist eventually finds out that her mother is in jail for more that being "at the wrong place at the wrong time." While Ruby's mother didn't pull the trigger, and actually stayed on the scene which shows instant remorse, she was present during the armed robbery and murder of a CVS employee. This discussion is also very matter-of-fact as the character reads about it in a newspaper article. To quote, "Mr. Sands pulled a gun from his pocket and shot the CVS employee." Telling it from a 3rd party perspective definitely helps soften that fact. This revelation causes quite a bit of turmoil for Ruby and she now needs to navigate these details. There is brief mention about high school girls "talking about boys" in hushed voices. There is also brief mention about Ruby's stepfather grabbing Ruby's mom's arm hard enough to leave bruises. It is also discovered that Ruby's mom's mother died when her children were young because her husband ran off with another woman and her mom "kept sleeping a lot.... and then didn't wake up forever" though they do not explain this further. Ruby does recount her fuzzy memories of the night her mom was arrested... how she heard the car leave and not long after, the police shouting and breaking down doors, and finding her in her bed which could be startling for younger readers, though it is pointed out that once the police found her in bed, they were very gentle with her. Overall this is a great story with lots of plot discussion points. Ruby's feelings and growth at the beginning and end of the book, and the many things that caused this change. Ruby's new friend, Margalit, consistently demonstrates compassion and complete acceptance of Ruby, even before she finds out about her mother being in jail, and becomes the friend Ruby desperately needed. And how one's perspective on life often depends on how you see things. If you're OK with all of the above issues, then this is a great read.

This title has:

Great messages
Great role models
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

Book Details

Our Editors Recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age and frinedship stories

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