Love, Ruby Lavender —- A Map, Questions, and Letters to Discuss
Good garden of peas! What a summer! And what a novel! If you haven’t read Love, Ruby Lavender, you really need to start right away. This is the story of just one summer – but it is so much more than just one summer – in Aurora County, courtesy of fabulous children’s author Deborah Wiles. Ruby Lavender is a darling, energetic little girl who loves her grandmother. This book will make you laugh out loud (Miss Eula and Ruby are Chicken Liberators of the Highest Order – and the scene where they “rescue” three chickens is one of my favorites!) and these characters will also teach you a few things about life, finding what is important, friendship, and how to keep putting one foot in front of the other, even when the going gets tough.
This book is excellent for discussion for several reasons. The story is a fun one to read, and we also have some life lessons and important topics that create excellent connections for readers, both young and old. The book also lends itself well to some engaging extension activities, that will hopefully help readers build on those connections while learning more about the characters and the themes of the novel. Readers will be able to make text-to-self connections (especially with the topic of friends, as I am finding 3rd and 4th grade girls have a lot to say about friends and friendship – and all of them have invariably experienced some complications with friends) and also make broader text-to-world connections that will allow for more discussion of topics such grief, loss, friendship, and learning important lessons in life as we grow and change.
Topics for Teaching and Exploration
Grief & Loss
This is an important topic for discussion, particularly how Ruby and Miss Eula and Melba Jane all handle the grief in their lives. Losing Grandpa Garnet is difficult for Miss Eula and Ruby. We also learn that Melba Jane lost her dad in the same accident one year ago. Ruby and Melba Jane each deal with grief differently. Why do they handle this loss differently? What did they learn about each other when they finally connect and talk (after the chicken attack)? Did each of them change by the end of the novel? How did Ruby grow and change? How does Miss Eula handle the loss of Grandpa Garnet? Does Miss Eula change also?
Miss Eula and Ruby exchange letters through their own secret mailbox and later through the US post office while Miss Eula is in Hawaii. Ruby also sends pictures. Why are letters so important to Ruby and Miss Eula? How is this different than calling each other on the telephone? Do you write letters to anyone in your life? Write a letter to someone you know that is far away – send it and see if maybe you get a letter in return!
Words of Wisdom
Miss Eula is a wise woman and gives Ruby several pieces of advice throughout the novel. She is also known for the motto “life goes on.” Why is this so important to Miss Eula? And Ruby? Is this a good motto for life? What are your favorite pieces of advice? Dove also gives some advice – and Ruby likes to offer advice too. Do you agree with the advice that Ruby tells others in the book? Why or why not? Would you give Ruby some advice?
Ruby has some important friends in the story. Even though Ruby and Melba Jane are not friends, they both become friends with Dove. Why? What do you look for in a friendship? What is important in a good friend? Why do you think Ruby and Melba Jane just cannot be friends while both of them are friends with other people? Why do people hold grudges sometimes – and what can we do to help with conflicts in a friendship? What ideas do you have to help friends and people who might hold a grudge? What do Ruby, Miss Eula, Melba Jane and Miss Mattie all teach us about friends?
Look at the different covers for the novel. Why did the illustrator include certain pictures and images? What parts of the story are included on each cover? Which cover do you like the best? Why? If you were to make your own cover, what would you create? What cover do you think Ruby would create if she were to write the story of her summer?
Ruby draws a map of Halleluia, the town in Aurora County where she lives with her family. Why do you think she included certain landmarks and places? How does the map show what is important to Ruby? What would a map of your town/neighborhood look like? What would you include on the map to share with others?
More Online Resources
Have you read Love, Ruby Lavender? Or other books by Deborah Wiles?