MG Review: Remarkably Ruby by Terri Libenson

Cover image by Terri Libenson, published by Harper Collins Publishers

A middle grade graphic novel, set in an American middle school, which bursts with personality and colour. I am greatly indebted to Antonia Wilkinson PR for sending me a copy of this life-affirming graphic novel, written and illustrated by Terri Libenson a best-selling US cartoonist.

I love the fact that graphic novels are being welcomed into classrooms and recognised for the accessible nature of their content and I think that this particular book will be a huge hit with upper key stage 2 readers. Ruby is a rather awkward loner who is coming to terms with the loss of her grade school best friend and trying to find her place in middle school. She suffers from the nick-name “baked bean girl” coined by a cruel wit in her class after unfortunate incidents caused by her nervous stomach and has a pretty miserable solitary existence at school. Meanwhile, her former friend, Mia is a high-achiever who seems to be surrounded by new friends, including a boyfriend, takes a perfectionist’s approach to everything that she does and is running for class president.

The story details their respective story arcs as they navigate new friendships, finding their places in the middle school social structure. Ruby is rescued by an inspirational teacher’s recognition of her poetic talent and through the poetry club begins to find her voice and her tribe. Perfect Mia has to face some uncomfortable truths about her behaviour as her plans start to go awry. Alternate chapters focus on each of the girls, with the book designed in a striking way; Ruby’s chapters are presented as an illustrated story in a style that would be familiar to fans of Tom Gates whereas Mia’s chapters are presented in full graphic novel cartoon style. I was very struck by the contrast in styles highlighting the contrast between shy, quiet, wordsmith Ruby and self-confident Mia, who will not let anything or anyone stand in the way of her ambition.

The gradual realisation by the two main protagonists that despite their seemingly opposing characteristics, they actually share similar insecurities, leads them to an understanding that wraps up the story neatly. I recommend this book very highly to all readers of 9-13, it’s a hugely enjoyable read and has a strong underlying theme of finding your inner talent and recognising that everyone has their unique strengths.

I am most grateful to Antonia Wilkinson and Harper Collins for my review copy of Remarkably Ruby in exchange for my honest opinion.

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