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A Friend for Ruby

By Sofie Laguna and Marc McBride

Reviewed by Lara Cain Gray

A Friend for Ruby is an example of the way the illustrations in a picture book can take a well-written but straightforward narrative and elevate it to marvellous. This is the story of Ruby, who sees something washed up on the sand as she walks home from school. It’s a lost creature, who comes home with Ruby. She makes a bed for it in her cubby and feeds it cakes. As kind as Ruby is to her new friend, it’s clear this is not the life for a creature. With the help of her Granma and Sonya, who works at the cake bakery, Ruby finds the creature’s real home and sets it free.
The same story might be told with any kind of creature – a lost dog, a funny elf – but THIS creature is a Marc McBride creature, and therefore unlike any other. With fur and feathers and spikes and tentacles, the creature will capture the imagination of young readers who could return repeatedly and continue discovering new visual elements. Landscapes on each spread are similarly detailed and hover between the real and the fantastic. Delightful endpapers also have a story to tell.
The narrative itself is a gentle exploration of childhood loneliness and longing to fit in. It reminds us that friends come in all shapes and sizes, and that being a kind friend sometimes means giving someone space to be themselves. And while Ruby is stinging from playground taunts and exclusion, we see that she has a supportive and encouraging Granma – a type of friendship she might appreciate more as she grows. And while trying too hard to foster her friendship with the creature, she has inadvertently made a genuine connection with Sonya, which is often the haphazard way in which great friendships are formed.
 Allen & Unwin  2023 
Sofie Laguna
Marc McBride
Lara Cain Gray’s book The Grown Up’s Guide To Picture Books is being published in September this year.
1942 Amsterdam Ave NY (212) 862-3680

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