We hear it all the time. Kids today – they just don’t know how to use their imaginations. They’re digitized, they’re desensitized, and they just don’t know how to pretend! Now, whether you believe this to be true or not (I myself see imagination abound in the kids I work with every day), I think what we all can agree upon is that imagination and pretend play are important. With this in mind, I was delighted to come across Kathryn White’s 2010 picture book Ruby’s School Walk, which follows one very imaginative little girl.
Ruby and her mom are on their way to school in the morning, but Ruby knows that all is not as it seems. Ruby’s mom insists that the things they see on their walk are ordinary; trees in the park, a stray tabby cat, an empty house for sale. But Ruby knows better. She recognizes the forest full of beasts, the tiger hiding behind the wall, the haunted house full of ghosts and witches, and all the other perils waiting for her as she makes her way to school. Fortunately, Ruby is equal to all of these challenges, rushing bravely at the “danger” she finds in her path. But when Ruby and her mom finally make it to school, brave and bold Ruby suddenly becomes unsure. Is a day at school away from her mother the one challenge Ruby doesn’t feel bold enough to tackle? Not to fear – Mom assures Ruby that her adventures will continue in the classroom, and with one last hug Ruby is on her way!
This rhyming picture book celebrates a little girl’s imagination with engaging text and bright, bold illustrations done my Miriam Latimer. Ruby – adorable in red rain boots and puffy pigtails – darts across the pages in illustrations that depict her chasing a “lion,” dancing in the sun to make a shadow that scares off the “crocodiles,” and doing her “magic hop-a-long” to ward off bats and witches. White’s rhyming text doesn’t quite live up to Latimer’s fun and energetic pictures – the rhymes, particularly those written in Ruby’s mother’s voice, are sometimes awkward and don’t quite fit together. Parents or educators looking to read this one aloud would do well to read it through a few times in advance if they’re looking to give it a nice rhythm. However, Ruby’s repeated response to her mother’s assurances – “But she was wrong / I must be brave, I mus be strong” – is a nice affirmation for little ones, and it appears often enough to give the book the repetition that so many kids enjoy.
Overall, Ruby’s School Walk is the best literary celebration of imagination for this age group that I’ve seen in a while, and it would also serve well as a reassuring text for kids who are nervous about spending the day at school away from a parent. Three cheers for brave and strong Ruby!
School Library Journal recommends this book for students in grades K-1.
Publication Information: Ruby’s School Walk by Kathryn White. Illustrations by Miriam Latimer. Barefoot Books, July 2010. ISBN: 978-1846862755.