Friday, June 8, 2012

Review: Ruby Redfort: Look Into My Eyes by Lauren Child

Ruby Redfort: Look Into My Eyes. by Lauren Child. March 27, 2012. Candlewick Press. 387 pages. ISBN: 9780763651206

Ruby Redfort is known to fans of the Clarice Bean series as the heroine of Clarice Bean’s favorite detective series. Now, in her own story, Ruby Redfort has the chance to take center stage and show readers just how she came to be such a genius code-cracker. With the help of Hitch, her family’s butler, and with no help whatsoever from her clueless, superficial parents, Ruby becomes a member of a secret society called Spectrum and finds herself in pursuit of a truth others have died trying to uncover.

I have read all of the Clarice Bean books and almost all of the Charlie and Lola books, but I feel perfectly confident saying that Look Into My Eyes is Lauren Child’s best book to date. The previous books have all been quirky and fun in their own way, but whereas Charlie’s and Clarice Bean’s voices sound very similar to one another, Ruby stands out as a truly original character. It really impresses me how Child was able to take the few throwaway details Clarice Bean mentions about Ruby and build a full-fledged universe from them.

I think it was a great decision to tell Ruby’s “origin story.” I loved seeing her acquire the various gadgets Clarice Bean so envies, and it was neat to see how Hitch and Clancy Crew figure into the equation. I also think Child did a great job of portraying an American character. I caught maybe one or two Briticisms, but otherwise, it seems like she got a handle on how Americans talk. By the same token, though, I didn’t see this as a purely American book, and that was a good thing as well. I liked how much it reminded me of James Bond (and the Austin Powers parodies of the Bond movies) and enjoyed being immersed in the wry, spunky tone and somewhat hyperbolic atmosphere of Ruby’s world.

Not only is this title a great read-alike for Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls books, it will easily reach beyond that audience and might even attract boy readers as well. Ruby isn’t an especially girly girl. At no point in this story does she become bogged down in all the stereotypical middle grade topics - catty girl fights, boyfriend drama, school issues, etc. She exists entirely outside of those situations, and instead deals with real issues of life and death. She also has a great collection of tee shirts bearing smart-alecky phrases, which is a detail I love, and her parents are these wonderful caricatures, whose every move is ridiculous and entertaining.

Finally, I was pleased to see the complexity of the codes and mysteries in this book. The reader has an opportunity to solve a code early on in the story, and I’ll admit I spent probably a good hour on that alone! The narrative also works in a lot of important clues that savvy readers are able to catch before Ruby even realizes they’re there. I always think the best mysteries are the ones the reader can solve along with the main character, and this one does an especially good job of making that possible.

Recommend this book to readers who enjoy Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger (also a 2012 release), the Gallagher Girls series, as mentioned above, and of course, Nancy Drew.

I borrowed Ruby Redfort: Look Into My Eyes from my local public library. 

For more about this book, visit Goodreads and Worldcat.

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