Ruby on the Outside by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers 

Summary: Ruby has kept a big secret for many years: when she was five, her mother was arrested and sentenced to 20-25 years in jail. Since then, Ruby has lived with her aunt and gone to visit her mother in prison every weekend. She’s kept her distance from other kids because she doesn’t want them to know about her mom. The summer before middle school, Margalit moves into Ruby’s condo complex, and the two girls quickly become friends. Just as Ruby is about to reveal the truth to Margalit, she learns that Margalit’s brother may have been the victim of Ruby’s mother’s crime. Can Ruby risk being honest with her friend?  Grades 4-6.

Pros: This book takes a sensitive look at an issue not often addressed in children’s literature. Readers will take Ruby to heart as she navigates the difficult issues life has dealt her. Her mother is portrayed sympathetically, but Ruby still struggles with anger, hurt, and a sense of loss. The realities of life in prison and what it’s like to visit a loved one there are described unflinchingly.

Cons: The emotional issues occasionally slow down the action a bit.

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