Ruby Ruben, written by Candice Muñoz and illustrated by Branislav Gapic, asks children to see the world through the eyes of its titular character. Ruby is a young boy who “sees the world a little bit differently.” He imagines flying to the moon, touching the sky, being a superhero, and making broccoli disappear from his plate. All of that is fairly standard imagination faire, but what really sets Ruby apart is how he deals with negativity.
When Ruby breaks his sword, or drops a treat, or even sprains an ankle, his imagination helps him cope with the situation in a fun and interesting way. Ruby’s perspective helps him deal with negativity from others too. He handles being made fun of at school with a smile and whimsical thought as he transforms his crutches into magical props and begins a journey around the playground to cheer up his downtrodden classmates.
Ruby’s unique perspective will provide parents of children up to age 8 with an excellent opportunity to talk about how best to handle disappointment. It would be a wonderful book to read near the beds of children facing injury or illness who are looking at using medical devices or an extended hospital stay. Ruby Ruben could be a champion for kids facing tough times and a great tool for parents as well.
However, there are a few things getting in Ruby’s way. First is Gapic’s artwork. Ruby Ruben is filled with bright colors that jump off the page and will help get and keep a little reader’s attention, but much of the work isn’t up to standards. Hands, even on the main character are often undefined and blobby, better outlining is needed on several pages in order to keep objects from blending into the background (even the title page is guilty of this), and one page a little boy does not appear to have a nose. These issues won’t ruin a child’s experience with Ruby, but they will get in the way of that experience being as good as it could have been.
The second issue is that this book tries to do too much and ends up accomplishing less than it could have. While Muñoz is busy showing us how many different situations Ruby handles in his unique way, we never actually get to see him handle them. A single page informs us that Ruby does feel bad when bad things happen, but this comes after we’ve already seen him instantly deal with negative events, seemingly with no negative feelings. Ruby Ruben could have benefited from being paired down and focusing more on just the events following Ruby’s injury and showing how he dealt with that event and the subsequent classroom bullying so that we could see him feel bad and then use his unique perspective to feel better, just as we’d like children to do.
Sometimes flawed diamonds are the most valuable. This Ruby is flawed but it still could find a wonderful place in the hearts and minds of readers everywhere. Ruby’s message is so positive and Muñoz’s writing is so earnest that it has more than enough value to deserve a place on your shelf. We Read Together gives Ruby Ruben 3 Gems out of 5.
For more information or to order Ruby Ruben check visit Ruby at his website.