cover image RUBY'S WISH


Shirin Yim Bridges, , illus. by Sophie Blackall. . Chronicle, $15.95 (36pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-3490-2

Bridges, in her first book (based on her grandmother's story), handles the conflict between Chinese tradition and young Ruby's longing to attend university with grace and compassion. She sets the scene with a description of "a block of houses, five houses wide and seven houses deep, [once] the magnificent home of one family." Ruby lives in this home with her grandfather (who "did what rich men did in old China: he married many wives"). A tutor teaches any of the 100 assorted grandchildren who wish to learn, but Ruby is the only girl who continues to study while also keeping pace with learning her many household duties. Bridges characterizes the heroine as confident and spunky. For instance, she "insist[s] on wearing red every day"; opposite, Blackall (A Giraffe for France) gives a nod to Chinese silkscreening with four poetic images of her, one per season, wearing various red outfits. One day, her teacher shows Ruby's grandfather a poem she has written in calligraphy: "Alas, bad luck to be born a girl; worse luck to be/ born into this house where only boys are cared for." Grandfather questions her about the poem, and she confides her wish to go to university. Years later, at a New Year's Day celebration, he proves that he was listening. Blackall conveys their special relationship in subtle ways: Grandfather's presence on the balcony, observing Ruby at her studies, a gentle stroke of her head when Ruby is called to Grandfather's office. This understated tale takes Ruby's predicament seriously while still celebrating her love of learning and her joyful personality. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)