Love, Ruby Lavender (Written by: Deborah Wiles)
July 25, 2009 in Creative Writing activities, Elementary Educators, Making Personal Connections, Middle Grade Novel, Reading Skills, six traits of writing, Wiles, Deborah Tags: award-winning novels, Deborah Wiles, Love Ruby Lavender, middle grade novels about dealing with death, middle-grade novels
*Middle-grade novel, set in recent past, realistic fiction
*Fourth-grade girl as main character
*Rating: From the first page, it is easy to see why Love, Ruby Lavender is an award-winning novel. Deborah Wiles is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. Ruby Lavender is laugh-out loud funny while pulling your heartstrings.
Short, short summary: In Halleluia, Mississippi, Ruby Lavender and her grandmother, Miss Eula, rescue chickens from their great demise from an egg ranch that is being sold. Soon after, Miss Eula confesses to Ruby that she is going to visit her son (Ruby’s uncle) and new baby granddaughter in Hawaii to get away from her sorrow over Grandpa Garnet’s death in a car accident last summer. Ruby is devastated. She can’t imagine life in Halleluia without her beloved Grandma, and she is worried that Miss Eula will like her new granddaughter better and never come back. While Miss Eula is away, Ruby promises to watch over the three chickens they rescued and the three eggs one of them laid. She also writes hysterical and heartfelt letters to her grandmother, asking her to come back and filling her in on all the happenings in Halleluia–like Melba Jane and Dove. Melba Jane is Ruby’s archenemy, and Dove is Ruby’s new friend and the niece of Ruby’s new 4th grade teacher. Not only is Melba Jane too prissy for Ruby, but her daddy also died in the same car accident as Grandpa Garnet. Melba Jane is holding something about the accident over Ruby’s head; and Ruby doesn’t like it, but she is also ashamed of it. Be prepared to laugh out loud at Ruby’s and Miss Eula’s antics and letters while you also wipe away a few tears when Ruby and Melba Jane try to figure out life, death, and who’s to blame.
So, what do I do with this book?
1. Love, Ruby Lavender is full of action scenes, and Deborah Wiles does a great job of filling these scenes with strong, snappy verbs. One of the 6 traits of writing is word choice, and you can study the verbs in this novel to learn good word choice and strong verbs. While reading or after reading, ask your students to find a paragraph or two where they think Wiles used strong verbs. Make a list of the strong verbs that students find in the novel on a piece of chart paper, and display the chart where students can see it easily when they are writing. Encourage them to replace some of their “to be” verbs with stronger verbs.
2. In Love, Ruby Lavender, Ruby and Miss Eula write several letters. Your students can practice writing a friendly letter after studying the parts of these letters in the novel. You can also discuss what makes a good letter and why it is fun to get letters. You can also talk about how we don’t write letters very much anymore because of e-mail. Then assign students to either write a letter to someone in their families OR pretend to be Miss Eula or Ruby and write a letter about a made-up event.
3. Characters’ feelings and motivations are a great reading skill to study with Love, Ruby Lavender. Ruby is full of emotions and motivation! So is Melba Jane. Discuss with students why they dislike each other so strongly. Ask students what was Melba Jane’s motivation when she threw the rocks at Miss Eula’s. What was Ruby’s motivation when she rescued Melba’s performance? Since Deborah Wiles writes such strong characters and a great plot, you have a lot of material to teach this reading skill.
If you loved Love, Ruby Lavender, then let us know about it here. What did you discuss? What activities did you do? Let us know in the comments!