A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Procedures and rules involved in visiting someone in prison. Plea bargain explained. Characteristics of a living organism listed.
Punishment makes you sad, mad, and lonely; it doesn't necessarily teach you a lesson. Society needs mothers who love their children; children need mothers to love them. Just because you're used to something doesn't mean it's normal or OK. It's better to be honest and open than to try to live with a secret.
Positive Role Models
Ruby works hard in school and always tries to be good. She tries to keep her family life a secret but learns that you can't have real friendship when you're hiding something. She finds a positive outlet for her feelings by writing a story about them. Her mother's in prison, but Ruby visits her regularly and they have a loving relationship. Her mother knows her own mistake means that Ruby also is paying a terrible price for it. Ruby lives with her aunt, who's loving, caring, and a good mentor.
Violence & Scariness
The circumstances of a past murder by gunshot are told without gore.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Ruby on the Outside, by Nora Raleigh Baskin, takes on the difficult subject of how a child copes with having her mother in prison. The mother's crime (being an accessory to murder) is recounted, and drugs are mentioned several times as involved in the crime, as are how visitation procedures are meant to prevent smuggling drugs into prison. It will get kids thinking about criminal justice and about jail as an effective (or ineffective) punishment. Ruby's a good role model who finds positive ways to cope with her feelings, and she remains emotionally close to her mother even though they only see each other under difficult circumstances. Ruby's new friend Margalit also is a good role model for how to be a friend and how to handle awkward social situations.
Is It Any Good?
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.
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.