A Friend for Ruby
A & U Children’s, 2023
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
Ruby was unhappy – she was being ignored by the others girls at school and seemed to have no friends. So as she mooched along the shoreline on her way home to Granma’s. she was surprised and delighted to see a most unusual creature washed up on the sand, looking as lost as she felt. Desperate for a friend she invites it to go home with her and hides it in her cubby. That night she keeps it company while it sleeps and in the morning, she feeds it leftover buns from the local bakery. While she doesn’t want to share her discovery with her Granma, she does share it with Sonya, the baker’s daughter.
But is her cubby the best place for a creature from the deep? Are buns its natural diet? It is literally a fish out of water and her secret is discovered when it wrecks Granma’s garden…
Amidst McBride’s breath-taking pictures, here is a story about loneliness being so overwhelming that sometimes we will reach out to anything for company, no matter how unsuitable, We forget that what we think we need is not necessarily the best thing for the other person/creature and so while one might be happy the other is miserable. Friendship is best when both of you are happy in the partnership and so this is a story that can open up discussions about what it means to be a friend as well as making and maintaining friendships. There is much to learn from both the creature and Ruby being happy when they are back amongst their own kind.
But as well as that aspect for younger readers, this is also an opportunity for older readers to study the incredible artworks of Marc McBride to consider how an illustrator contributes to a picture book. What is the role of the illustrator and the illustrations in this format? Why, even for older readers, if this format often the best for sharing the author’s message and intent? This is another collaboration between the husband and wife team which includes The House on Pleasant Street and The Song of Lewis Carmichael , but he is also the illustrator of Deltora Quest as well as many others so there is a wealth of material available to investigate, as well as further suggestions from the NCACL’s Picture Books for Older Readers database..