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“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island.”
Summary: Ruby has a plan, and she has convinced the headmistress at the orphanage that it will work. With the winter winds blowing and after four days' journey, Ruby reaches the Kloss house. She immediately volunteers to work as a carpenter's apprentice. It is 1910, and girls do not become carpenters. But Mrs. Kloss has her own thoughts on the subject! Ruby has found a place in the world. But is it her home? This is a holiday chapter book about personal discovery, faith, and family.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, anytime reading, family reading, playtime reading, read aloud book, advanced reader
Recommended Age: read together: 5 to 12; read yourself: 7 to 12
Young Reader Reaction: Review pending.
Adult Reader Reaction: I couldn't put the book down. Although it seems awkward in spots, I found the story enchanting and Ruby captivating. It is easy to recognize the characters (even peripheral ones) as humans on a journey of discovery. I loved the independence that Mrs. Kloss and Ruby have in deciding what is/isn't "boys work." The illustrations (albeit not always well placed) are incredibly beautiful. They complement the story and add whimsy, as well.
Pros: This holiday chapter book offers characters with depth, and artfully weaves a number of Christmas themes together: Christ's birth, Santa, the legend of the reindeer, and the true spirit of Christmas.
Cons: There are some loose ends that take away from this book's potential. Unless you read the book jacket, you don't know the story is set in 1910. On the first page, Ruby encounters a teenager (the only other girl in the story), but we never hear about her again. Later in the book the passage of time is marked by a turn of the page, not a chapter separation. The time leaps are too big for that subtle a plot shift.
Borrow or Buy: Buy. This is a beautiful story that offers weaves the legends of youth (flying reindeer) with the true spirit of Christmas. It will take several readings to appreciate all the book has to offer.
Educational Themes: Although there is a Christmas theme to the book, its value goes beyond the season. The characters, their choices and journey (both adult and child characters) offer plenty to talk about. There is a Norwegian folksong,which can be the launchpad for studying legends, folklore, and customs or traditions. There are also plot elements that are subtly introduced that kids can look for as they read or listen.
Literary Categories: Fiction - holiday, family, young adult, series book
Date(s) Reviewed: October 2007
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