Hark, It’s Me, Ruby Lee!: Book Review

Hark, It's Me, Ruby Lee by Lisa Shanahan and illustrated by Binny. Read the review at Miss Jenny's ClassroomRuby Lee wants to be the messenger…badly. So her best friend gives her some advice and finally she gets her chance but…

Title: Hark, It’s Me, Ruby Lee!
Author: Lisa Shanahan
Illustrator: Binny (Binny Talib)
ISBN: 978073441655          Language: English

Classification: Fiction
Themes: strengths and weaknesses, classroom roles

What’s it about?
Ruby-Lee loves helping but most of all she wants to be chosen by her teacher, Mrs Majestic-Jones, to be the classroom messenger. Her best friend, George Papadopoulos, decides to give her some advice to help her be chosen…but it means Ruby-Lee will need to be a lot quieter.

Embrace
I’m not sure I have anything to write here…at all.

Beware
It’s a rather long story. “Says” – says it all. Repetition of George’s full name.

Hark, It's Me, Ruby Lee by Lisa Shanahan and illustrated by Binny. Read the review at Miss Jenny's ClassroomMy Thoughts
So this is the first book in a while that I’ve read to my kids and gotten a resounding “I don’t like it” from both of them – so I guess this isn’t one for the keep pile. Honesty, I didn’t like the book either for a couple of different reasons.

One thing both of the kids did like about the book was the inclusion of Siena and Vienna who are twins. Being twins themselves they did like talking about the two girls who looked the same.

The story has some redeeming features such as showing that not everyone is great at everything and that difference is okay. But for me this is undermined by lines such as when Siena is chosen to be the messenger by the teacher “again” – as a teacher one goal you have is to ensure all students have a chance to develop skills – sure, some do a much better job at tasks than others – but, how would any student improve if the same students were assigned tasks over and over again?

Moving on, I’m not in love with the illustrations – I don’t hate them either – just not totally loving them. The faces are white – as in plain paper white -and this makes the characters come across as very cold against the white paper. In addition, the illustrator, Binny, has used a limited colour palette. In itself this isn’t a dreadful thing but overall I just found the book a bit ‘cold’ due to it.

A much more problematic aspect though of this book for me is the story itself. I had a grade 3 teacher whose face would have turned red at the repeated use of “says” and yes, she would be correct! It is very annoying reading the story and constantly adding “says” even when clearly some should say “asked” or “questioned”.

For example (edited):
“Hmm,” says George Papadopoulos. “I am wondering…”
“Yes?” says Ruby Lee.
“Whether…handstands?”
“Oh,” says Ruby Lee. “….”
“Exactly,” says George Papadolpoulos.

That’s too many “says” and this particular two-page spread has 2 more as well. I don’t recall any other speech format being used in the book. This for me is poor writing modelling.

On to my next issue – George Papadopoulos. Why oh why is his full name used every…single…time! It was enough to break my reading! I had to stop and say the full name every time – what exactly is referring him by his full name adding to the story? Nothing, nada, ziltch.

The goal of most books is for the main character at least to be likable by the end of the story. Such as shown in Traitor’s Smile with Eugenie (though written for older children) who matures and grows in the story and becomes less annoying. I did not warm to Ruby Lee. I found her annoying. She finally gets to be the messenger and lets her imagination take off and over…which incidentally reminds me of another issue I have with the story – What teacher would give a student 3 or so attempts to deliver a message? Sure, get them to try the task but at the same time no teacher has time to waste sending a message to the office a total of 4 times – with the message finally being delivered by Adelaide-Kiev – another name I just don’t get.

The story ends with Ruby Lee being chosen as the “special emergency officer, every single day”. Again, children need opportunities to practice skills where possible – if you only do what you are “good” at then how will you ever improve any of the other skills?

Overall, I found this book annoying, contrived, and lacking substance. This book has been shortlisted for Book Week 2018 in the Early Childhood category. It’s not one I would recommend.

Lisa Shanahan Website

Binny Talib - illustrator - website

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