Young readers are often surprised when, in stories from “a long time ago,” the characters have hopes and dreams similar to their own. They will happily find this is true with Ruthie: Or How Grandma Really Got Those Scars. This collection of stories set in 1930’s Pennsylvania is both educational and entertaining. Although it needs copyediting, Ruthie is poised to be a breakout star.
Author Linda Ruggiero drew on her Lithuanian family history to craft these stories about eight-year-old tomboy Ruthie, who is both a hard worker and schemer. She helps out on the family farm with her brothers, loses a dear friend to illness, and concocts a scheme to get to the World’s Fair that even Tom Sawyer would have shied away from. Ruthie talks like a young hipster (slang and pop culture figures from the 1930s are explained in a detailed glossary), and she got the scars of the title jumping a fence to swipe some Shirley Temple paper dolls from the trash yard. The family elders speak in a thick dialect that’s nicely captured here and highlights the way the children of immigrants assimilate through language.
Ruthie, unfortunately, needs serious copyediting; quotation marks come and go, and there are inconsistencies in spelling and grammar. Young readers deserve a clean, error-free reading experience, and such issues are disappointing, especially in a story as emotionally rich and lively as this one. There’s a sequel in the works, and it’s easy to imagine these books in classroom use once the bugs are ironed out. Ruthie, a heroine who shines on the page, is sure to attract many fans.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.