Tuesday 4 July 2023

Ruby’s Rescue

Ruby’s Rescue by Elizabeth Mary Cummings & Chen Hughes (Big Sky Publishing) Softcover, Picture Book RRP $14.99 9781922896285

Reviewed by Karen Hendriks

A bushfire startled Ruby’s horse Rusty, causing her to fall. Ruby ended up in hospital where she found her toes got cold from being stuck in a cast. Once home she wanted to help with the bushfire clean-up, but it wasn’t easy rolling in her wheelchair. When Ruby rescues a possum with burnt paws, she gets the idea to make ‘paw socks.’ As Ruby’s idea grows, the whole town becomes involved.  

Elizabeth Mary Cummings is a Sydney based author and award-winning poet. Her stories always start by exploring the world from a child’s perspective. She loves nature and is passionate about the environment.

Ruby’s Rescue is told through Ruby’s eyes. Ruby thinks about her environment and wants to do something to help animals hurt by the bushfire. The story tension quietly builds with Ruby’s frustration and awareness about the impact of the bushfire. Her desire to help animals hurt by the fire leads Ruby to come up with her own solution. ‘Dad, you KNOW what I mean! I want to help animals!’

This heart-warming story is very well written, and the simple sentences ensure that the story flows well. Ruby sees what Rusty sees. A little furry ball of possum! Ruby is a character who inspires others to believe they can do things and that they too can make a difference. Cleverly, the story is a blueprint for how it can be achieved. I love that the backmatter in this book lists steps to protect your home from a bushfire. It is a thoughtful and helpful touch. ‘We can make special gloves for the animals with sore paws.’

Cheri Hughes is an illustrator who brings characters to life with plenty of emotion and playfulness. She adores bright bold colours that create striking illustrations that are eye-catching. The vivid orange front cover is sure to attract attention. Ruby’s wild orange hair is just like bush fire colours. The rural setting is natural and warm and showcases regional Australia.  By having the community involved in Ruby’s rescue plan, it allows Hughes to stretch her creative wings and create a diverse mix of people. The illustrations support the words beautifully by showing everyone working together.  I love how Hughes brings Ruby’s character traits into the illustrations, particularly in the spread with Ruby’s thought process about how to make the mittens and what to call them. It shows children how to think about things.

Ruby’s Rescue Mission is an empowering picture book for children aged 3-8 years. The story appeals across many levels. Children learn that their ideas are important and that they can make change in their own worlds. With the themes of bushfires, animal rehabilitation and community, this book will appeal to libraries and schools as well as to families.

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