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January 14, 2019

The Beat on Ruby's Street by Jenna Zark ~ a #KidLit Review #MondayBlogs

by MK French

In the summer of 1958, Ruby Tabeata is proud of being a Beat and not like the "average" eleven-year-old. She lives in New York City with her Beat parents and older brother, writes poetry, hopes to attend a Jack Kerouac reading and make her way through Greenwich Village. When she's accused of stealing fruit, it starts a cascade of events that sends her a children's home and shows her the power of art and protest.

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The Beat on Ruby's Street
June 2016; Dragon Moon Press
978-1988256184; ebook, print (215 pages)
children's, historical fiction
I haven't read much about this era, so I was curious how the life of artists would be in this time period. It's the same in the sense that they don't follow conventional wisdom and enjoy being on the cutting edge, and still feel all the same emotions that others do. There is a lot more uncertainty in their lives, however. As a child, Ruby is only peripherally aware of it until it comes front and center in the form of her being removed from her parents' care. The offbeat things she appreciates about her life are looked down upon by authorities, and she truly sees them as evil for separating her family. The reader would be aware of the well-meaning intent behind the social worker's actions, even if Ruby can't. With our modern day viewpoint, we can acknowledge that it should have gone better, but in those circumstances, it was really difficult to do.

This is a very thoughtfully and carefully crafted novel that does pose thought-provoking questions. It's not just in the text, but literally at the end with Jenna Zark's comments and even a suggested question list for further reading. It would work very well in a classroom or youth book group. My ten-year-old daughter really enjoyed reading about Ruby and thought she was a great girl to get to know. She wasn't comfortable with Ruby calling her parents by their names or how some of the Beat culture was, as she didn't think it was terribly respectful. That was absolutely the point of the Beat generation, as they didn't think much of the establishment. If other grade school readers hold a similar viewpoint, it will really be a very interesting discussion about culture, intergenerational conflicts, and staying true to individual ideals.

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

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