Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo opens her debut novel, Ruby in the Sky, with twelve-year-old Ruby watching the people in her life disappear. Her father is gone, and now her mother gets handcuffed and placed in the back of a police cruiser. In a strange new home with only her mom’s older bossy cousin Cecy to rely on, Ruby retreats into silence, hanging her head behind her long black hair with her bangs forming an invisibility cloak.
In her new community, Ruby and her falsely accused mother require courage to face their challenges. Ruby needs to make an oral presentation at the big Sixth Grade Wax Museum portraying an important person in history, and her mother needs to find a job and defend herself against the unjust charges. Adult and sixth-grade bullies beset them, but unlikely supporters turn up as well. The recluse Abigail Jacobs, living in a ramshackle shed; Ahmad Saleem, a Syrian refugee; Ahmed’s uncle; and Annie Ralls, the tough-as-nails public defender play helping roles. Nevertheless, Ruby and her mother must find courage within themselves to choose whether to stand up or to disappear.
This is a good week to read this book with its connections to the moon and the moon landing. Ruby’s middle name, “Moon,” is for the full bright red moon on the night she was born. And there is the rumor that Abigail once worked for NASA and has a real moon rock stored in the house she has abandoned for the shed. The characters in the book, including the moon, are well-drawn and believable, and the story is engaging. I’m predicting we have not heard the last of this book or of its author. Remember that you heard it here first!