Preteen girl looking at a cell phone with her parents

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Parents' Guide to

Ruby on the Outside

By Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 8+

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

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A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 10+

Based on 1 parent review

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.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (1 ):
Kids say: Not yet rated

Veteran author Nora Raleigh Baskin takes on a tough subject with honesty and warmth. Protagonist Ruby is remarkably resilient, and kids will really relate to her struggles with powerful, sometimes scary emotions, thanks to her strong, believable voice. Intrigue and interest are maintained as Ruby slowly pieces together her mother's story. The plot has a disappointing weakness when one of Ruby's main fears turns out to be unfounded because of a coincidence. Otherwise the story's compelling enough that young readers probably will just breathe a sigh of relief and move on.

RUBY ON THE OUTSIDE will get kids thinking about the criminal justice system and about how incarceration punishes many more people than the ones actually serving their sentences.

Book Details

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