Book cover: Ruby on the Outsideby Nora Raleigh Baskin
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2015
163 pgs
Grades 4-7

Ruby Danes is about to start middle school with a secret: Ruby’s mother is in prison.

Until now, Ruby has kept her secret close to her heart. No one knows about her struggle to understand her mom’s absence or the awkward ins-and-outs of visiting hours in prison. Cue Margalit Tipps, who moves into Ruby’s complex; they become instant friends.

When Ruby learns that Margalit lost her brother Josh, her excitement at a new friend turns to overwhelming concern. Ruby’s mother is in jail for helping her husband, Nick, with a robbery that ended with Nick killing a store clerk named Josh Tipps.

Could the Josh Tipps whom Ruby’s mother tried to stop from bleeding out be her best friend’s brother? Could Margalit ever look at Ruby the same if she knew the truth? Can Ruby really be Margalit’s best friend if she can’t tell her the truth?

Author Nora Raleigh Baskin weaves together a story that pushes us to hope for the best, accept the worst, and learn to let honesty take the wheel.

Ruby On the Outside offers an interesting narrative in which Ruby deals with the realities of her life and the burden that her mother’s journey has placed on her shoulders. We see a girl who desperately loves her mother, but who is also angry with her for leaving her and causing her life to veer off course. Ruby is a strong and resolute presence.

This is a story of how the problems we can’t see about a person can be just as important as those we can see. It is also a story that highlights the importance of finding people we can trust and share our secrets, hopes, and dreams with, because everyone needs a place to feel safe.

This book is meant for younger readers, but it could also be used with older readers as a springboard for exploring issues with the criminal justice system.