Friday 22 September 2023

A Friend for Ruby

A Friend for Ruby by Sofie Laguna, illustrated by Marc McBride (Allen & Unwin) HB RRP $24.99 ISBN: 9781761067648

Reviewed by Dannielle Viera

Ruby encounters a strange creature on the beach, and decides to take it home. ‘You are a better friend than any of the girls at school,’ she tells the creature. She hides it in her cubby so her grandmother won’t find it. But it is huge and hungry, so she has to ask Sonya, the baker’s daughter, if she has any old cakes and loaves. Eventually, Ruby’s grandmother discovers the creature and comes up with a plan to return it to where it belongs. Sonya is happy to help, and the three of them draw the creature into the ocean, where its family is waiting.

Touching themes of friendship and compassion ripple through Sofie Laguna’s tender tale. Ruby’s dedicated protection of the creature is admirable, and infuses the story with the important idea of conserving the natural world. Readers aged four to eight will comprehend the rewards that kindness brings, especially when they see the emerging connection between Ruby and Sonya.

Marc McBride’s vibrant illustrations are wondrous to behold. His characterisation of the creature as a conglomeration of many different animals – from elephant to narwhal – is clever, as it reinforces the concept of caring for all living things. The dream spread is particularly breathtaking, and littlies will spend hours inspecting the incredible details.

The combination of gentle text and stunning images ensures that A Friend for Ruby will become a favourite with youngsters, especially as a bedtime book. And maybe, like Ruby, they will dream of prismatic peace beneath the sea.

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