Ruby Holler by Sharon Creech
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Having suffered through a string of appalling foster homes (the spitting Cranbepps; scary, toothless Mr. Dreep who locked them in his cellar; and the mean Burgerton boys), 13-year-old orphan Dallas and his twin sister, Florida, have pretty much given up on ever finding a happy home. So when an eccentric older couple enters their lives, providing such adventures as a river expedition, a treasure hunt (of sorts), and a whole lot of remarkable meals: "beat-the-blues broccoli," "anti-cranky crumpets," and "getting-used-to-kids- again stew," the twins take a while to warm up.
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Florida's language teems with outrageous, telling negativity--everything is "putrid"--and even dreamy Dallas is inclined to bouts of doubt. But warm up they do, to the continual delight of readers of all ages.
Sharon Creech, author of Newbery Medal winner Walk Two Moons and Newbery Honor book The Wanderer, is in fine form with her hilarious yet poignant novel about downtrodden siblings who refuse to be squished altogether. The perfectly happy ending is somewhat predictable, but readers who have fallen in love with each quirky character won't mind a bit. (Ages 8 to 13)