Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Ruby Holler

Ruby Holler

Sharon Creech
For ages 9 to 12
HarperCollins, 2002   ISBN: 978-0060277321

Dallas and Florida are the most problematical children at the Boxton Creek Home. Not for nothing are they known as the “trouble twins.” However, one has to keep in mind that they have a very good reason for being as troublesome as they are. The couple who run the home, Mr. and Mrs. Trepid, have no fondness for children. They impose a long list of mind-numbing rules on the children who have the misfortune to live at the home, rules which would suck the life out of a child if he or she did not fight back by getting into trouble every so often.

Dallas and Florida have lived in numerous terrible foster homes, so they are not all pleased to hear that they are going to another one, albeit a temporary placement. This time they are being sent to live with Tiller and Sairy Morey at Ruby Holler. The older couple have no children living at home any more and they fancy going on a couple of vacations with some young companions. Tiller wants to travel down a river, and Sairy wants to go to an island. It is planned that Florida will travel with Tiller, and Dallas will go with Sairy.

Dallas cannot help feeling excited at the prospect of going on a trip to an island where there are sandy beaches, palm trees and who knows what other delights. Florida, the ever suspicious twin, cannot believe that anything good can come of all this, and she does not allow herself to think that Sairy and Tiller mean well. When the twins arrive at Ruby Holler Florida is astonished when she is not thrown into a cellar to sleep. She can hardly believe how well she and Dallas are fed. She can hardly stand it that she is not punished when she makes mistakes and does the wrong thing. When she and Dallas are paid for the chores that they do, Florida is beside herself. Is it possible that Sairy and Tiller really are good people? Could it be that there isn’t a catch in this arrangement after all?

Though they are treated well, Florida is determined that she and her brother should run away. They do try to run away one night, but they don’t get very far. It turns out that running away from a place that you like and from kind people is not as easy as it sounds. In the end the children decide that they will take the trips with Sairy and Tiller after all. They can run away after the trips are completed. Only things don’t quite work out that way, and the children, Sairy, and Tiller take a far more important journey that summer, one which will impact them for the rest of their lives.

In this powerful novel Sharon Creech weaves together threads of narrative to give readers a story that is poignant, funny, and thoroughly captivating. There is magic in Ruby Holler which allows Dallas and Florida, children who have never been treated with kindness or who have never been loved, to heal and to feel cared for. Florida, with her swearing and her funny expressions, will have readers smiling in no time, and it is hard not to like her dreamy brother who escapes into worlds in his imagination.  It is fascinating to see how these children change as Ruby Holler, Tiller, and Sairy begin to work their magic on them, and it is delightful to watch as the right pieces finally start to fall into place for the “trouble twins.”