cover image Ruby Lee and Me

Ruby Lee and Me

Shannon Hitchcock. Scholastic Press, $16.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-545-78230-2

It is the summer of 1969, and things couldn't seem worse to 12-year-old Sarah. Her six-year-old sister, Robin, has been seriously injured in a car accident that Sarah is certain was her fault (she had been reading while babysitting Robin), and Sarah called her best friend, Ruby Lee, the worst thing you can call a black person. Sarah's inner struggles take place against the background of integration in a rural North Carolina community; Hitchcock (The Ballad of Jessie Pearl) depicts her guilt, anger, and grief with credibility and the important people in her life in sympathetic, fully dimensional fashion. The contrast between Ruby Lee and Sarah's friendship and that of the girls' grandmothers effectively reflects the differences in their generations' approach to race relations; the uneasiness created by the arrival of the elementary school's first black teacher, Mrs. Smyre, is also treated realistically. While Mrs. Smyre is a little too good to be true, an endnote explains the roots of the book are in the author's connection to just such a teacher. Ages 8%E2%80%9312. Agent: Deborah Warren, East West Literary Agency. (Jan.)