Review Blog

Mar 16 2018

Ruby in the ruins by Shirley Hughes

cover image

Walker Books, 2018. ISBN 9781406375893
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: World War Two, London, The Blitz, Children affected by war. As 1945 comes around, Ruby and her mother are still living in London, surrounded by devastation as night after night bombing raids on their city flatten the streets and houses around them. But they stay, despite neighbours moving to safer places, in case Ruby's Dad comes home.
Hughes' illustrations depict the area in which they live with an emotional overlay, looking as they do like any flattened city which children see every night on their evening news.
Ruby and her mother snuggle down each night in their big double bed until the all clear sounds in the morning, and when peace is declared those left in the street celebrate with a street party. One by one the men return, but when Mum hugs a tall thin man who comes down from the train, Ruby is shy, unsure of who this stranger is. At home, he seems to take up the whole space, and Ruby has to return to her rather dilapidated room in the attic.
One day the boys ask her to go exploring with them and she runs off, with Mum telling them to stay in their own neighbourhood.
But exploring an old site with a warning sign Ruby falls. One of the boys rushes off to get help, and it is her father who returns with him to help her home. He is a stranger no more.
In tightly packed prose, Hughes outlines a story common to many children, getting to know again a parent who has been away for a long time. Set during World War Two in London, the story has a wider significance for many children emotionally lost during war time or bombing or dislocation. Readers will certainly learn more about the effect of war on Londoners during the The Blitz, but will also see parallels to many other children over the world, at a loss trying to understand the effects of war upon their families. This production with its haunting illustrations, will draw in the reader as they look at the details shown, and eagerly peruse the endpapers with images of banners and instructions advertised by those in charge during World War Two. The book will create a platform for discussion in the classroom when war and its effects upon children is discussed.
Fran Knight

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