In "Ruby Holler," Sharon Creech takes young readers on a transformative journey like those found in her previous Newbery Medal-winning novels.
"Trouble twins" Florida and Dallas have spent their far-from-idyllic childhoods thrust between a terrible orphanage and a string of abusive foster homes. They rely on each other to keep their spirits up and dreams intact, and plan someday to escape on the night train.
Then Dallas and Florida are sent to accompany a "white-haired couple" on their separate summer adventures, one on a river trip and the other bird-watching on an obscure island. Tiller and Sairy transport the twins to their humble but magical log cabin in Ruby Holler and fill them with wonderful comfort foods like anti-cranky-crumpets, getting-used-to-kids-again stew, and welcome-home bacon.
Dallas quickly falls for the "treehouse with beds" and the freedom to run and holler, but Florida won't trust the comforts of this loving home. "Even if this was a paradise," she warns, "and even if you wanted to stay here forever, it's not going to happen. Those people are going to get mad at us before you know it, and they'll have us back with the putrid Trepids before you can blink. So I say we just plan on getting that night train as soon as possible, you hear me?"
Like the twins, this book has its own indomitable spirit and magical reverie that transcends its pages. Creech carefully tempers the dark undertones of abuse and abject humanity with a liberal sprinkling of beauty, humor, and tenderness.
The redemptive power of good old-fashioned kindness takes the twins further away from their troubled lives than could any adventure whether on the night train to anywhere-but-here or a voyage to some exotic island.
Enicia Fisher is a freelance writer in Elsah, Ill.