Thursday, August 30, 2012

Series Spotlight - Ruby and the Booker Boys

This is the second in my series of posts focusing on series that feature people of color as main and supporting characters (check out the first post here). The purpose of these spotlights is to offer alternatives to other titles where diversity is lacking - not that I don't enjoy many of those popular series books, but in recognition of how important it is that all kids see themselves represented in the literature around them.

This time around, we're looking at Derrick Barnes's series Ruby and the Booker Boys. This is a fantastic early chapter book series for young readers, packed with humor, emotion, and lots and lots of fun. Fans of Clementine or Judy Moody will be equally smitten by the self-proclaimed ultra-fabulous Ruby Booker, a narrator who sparkles between every line. Ruby may have three awesome older brothers, but she refuses to stand in their shadows. No sir, Ruby Booker is a star, and she's not afraid to show it.

In the first book of the series, Brand-new School, Brave New Ruby, our heroine is starting third grade in a new school, Hope Road Academy. Now Ruby's not one to be intimidated by just anything, but the thing is that at Hope Road, her older brothers are already legendary. This could work to her advantage, if their star power shines bright enough. But it could also mean that their little sis is outshined, and Ruby cannot let that happen. Instead, she's determined to make her mark at Hope Road in her own unique way.

The second title sees Ruby having found her footing at Hope Road, but she's still got to establish herself as her very own Booker, not just the little sis. In Trivia Queen, 3rd Grade Supreme, the students have a chance to win a great prize in the school-wide trivia contest. And Ruby knows her stuff, because she's a trivia manaic. So what's the problem? Technically the contest is only open for the upper grades, which means that Ruby's brothers are eligible but she isn't. Can she convince the principal to allow her to compete? And if Ruby does get in, will she be able to beat the older contestants?

There's a lot to love about the Ruby Booker titles. Though Ruby competes with her older brothers, they all love each other very much, and that affection shows through in each story. Her parents are supportive and want the best for all their kids, though some good-natured teasing is definitely in order. But best of all is the character of Ruby herself. She's confident and self-assured, sassy and full of fun. She loves music, her pet iguana Lady Love and her orange-and-purple sneaker set. Ruby's the kind of kid boys and girls can relate to, and readers will want to hear more about this bouncy, vibrant kiddo and her fun-loving brothers. And those adorable illustrations by Vanessa Brantley Newton are the icing on the cake!

The Ruby and the Booker Boys Series:
Book 1: Brand-new School, Brave New Ruby
Book 2: Trivia Queen, 3rd Grade Supreme
Book 3: The Slumber Party Payback
Book 4: Ruby Flips for Attention
Book 5: Tad P. Loves Ruby B. (no release date set at this time)

Age range: Elementary/Middle grade

Bonus: interview with author Derrick Barnes from the blog Color Online

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