Cover image for Ruby Lu, brave and true
Ruby Lu, brave and true
Look, Lenore.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Atheneum Books for Young Readers, [2004]

Physical Description:
105 pages : illustrations ; 20 cm
"Almost-eight-year-old" Ruby Lu spends time with her baby brother, goes to Chinese school, performs magic tricks and learns to drive, and has adventures with both old and new friends.
General Note:
"An Anne Schwartz Book."
Reading Level:

640 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 4.1 2.0 77364.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 3.4 5 Quiz: 36796 Guided reading level: N.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Most days the best thing about being Ruby is everything . Like when she's the star of her own backyard magic show. Or when she gives a talk at the school safety assembly on the benefits of reflective tape. Or when she rides the No. 3 bus all the way to Chinatown to visit GungGung and PohPoh.
And then there are the days when it's very hard to be Ruby. Like when her mom suggests Chinese school on Saturdays . Or when her little brother, Oscar, spills all of Ruby's best magician secrets. Or when her parents don't think she's old enough to drive!
Come along with Ruby Lu in her chapter-book debut -- which even includes a flip book of a magic trick -- and share the good and the not-so-good days with an (almost) eight-year-old Asian-American kid.

Author Notes

Kim Flottum brings a background of twelve years of plant science, honey bee research,  and basic farming to his thirty years as the editor of  Bee Culture  magazine where his main occupation is finding the answers to the multitude of questions that beginning, intermediate, and even advanced and experienced beekeepers bring to the table. He teaches beginning and advanced beekeeping courses, travels extensively to educate and lecture, and contributes to a variety of other publications on the basics of honey bees and beekeeping biology, the business of bees and pollination, producing and using varietal honeys, and a host of other subjects. His books, magazine articles, interviews, and blogs are widely read for both their fundamental and advanced contribution to beekeeping knowledge. His magazine platform gives voice to his social commentary on topics ranging from genetically modified foods to pesticide abuse to both good and bad government regulations in the industry. He is beekeeping's leading advocate for fundamental honey bee safety including insuring excellent honey bee health, providing extraordinary forage, and minimizing the use of agricultural pesticides.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 1-3. Look's Asian American perspective is always like a breath of fresh air in picture books. With Ruby Lu, she ventures for the first time into chapter-book territory, and the results are mixed. Her chapters are oddly disjointed, and the narrative doesn't flow from one chapter into the next. Rather it reads like a collection of nine short stories in which Ruby worries about going to Chinese school (Do they really serve snacks of roasted snakes?), the arrival of a cousin from China whom she's never met, and more. In addition, because the book is billed as the first in a series, Look introduces a load of details to establish character and setting, which threaten to overwhelm what little continuity there is. Still, there's some sparkle here, and Look certainly addresses the need for a recurring Asian American character. A little tightening may give future books the extra punch they need. --Terry Glover Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Look (Henry's First-Moon Birthday) introduces a plucky Chinese-American heroine in this chapter-book series opener. "The best thing about living on 20th Avenue South was everything," states the peppy if occasionally precious narrative, written from the perspective of almost-eight-year-old Ruby Lu. Readers meet Ruby's mother (who takes Chinese fan-dancing lessons), her father (a champion knitter and Scrabble fanatic), her grandparents (who mostly speak Chinese) and her baby brother, Oscar (whom she adores even though he steals her thunder while she's performing a backyard magic show). In mostly diverting episodes, Ruby desperately attempts to teach Oscar to talk after her friend's baby brother begins to speak; she introduces herself as a tree frog on the first day of Chinese school, when a classmate, also named Ruby, fancies herself a gecko; and-in a hopelessly unrealistic frame-climbs behind the wheel of the family car and drives herself and Oscar to school. Look's similes can strike a false note (e.g., when Oscar's antics distract Ruby's magic-show audience, she "felt all her love for him drying up like spilled soda on a hot sidewalk"), yet on the whole the character is vivacious enough to make the audience want to believe in her. A cousin from China moves in with Ruby's family at tale's end, setting the scene for the second installment, and kids who have taken a shine to the likable lass will look forward to her return. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 6-10. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 1-3-Ruby Lu makes her debut in this funny and charming chapter book. Full of joie de vivre, the eight-year-old loves her family, particularly her baby brother, Oscar; wearing reflective tape; and performing in her own backyard magic show. Plot development is episodic but steady as Ruby musters up her courage to attend Chinese school; she confronts mean Christina from California; and she decides to drive herself to school. (Her parents are frantic when their children and car are missing, but Ruby thinks that her biggest mistake was parking in the principal's spot.) Looming large is the fact that her cousin, Flying Duck, is emigrating from China and Ruby will have to share her bedroom. All is well, however, when Flying Duck gets off the airplane wearing reflective tape. Clever book design includes a playful copyright page and a small flip book of one of Ruby's magic tricks on the lower right-hand corner of each page. "Ruby's Fantastic Glossary and Pronunciation Guide" explains unfamiliar terms related to Chinese culture. Generous font, ample white space, and animated and active illustrations rendered in India ink make this a perfect choice for readers who are looking for alternatives to Barbara Park's "Junie B. Jones" books (Random).-Debbie Stewart, Grand Rapids Public Library, MI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter 1: The Best Thing About 20th Avenue South The best thing about living on 20th Avenue South was everything. Ruby liked her house. She had lived there since kindergarten. Tomato slugs lived at the bottom of the front steps. A plum tree lived in the backyard. The kitchen smelled like jook and ice cream. Ruby liked the rain. It rained often on 20th Avenue South. The rain sprinkled diamonds on spiderwebs and poured silver on the sidewalks. At night the rain was a lullaby of a billion grains of rice falling on the roof. Ruby liked the sunshine. It was not often sunny on 20th Avenue South, but when it was, all the bottle caps in the street shone like coins. Windows opened. Radios played. Laundry dried. Plums ripened. Mothers took their babies out. Ruby liked the bus. The No. 3 ran from Chinatown to the Jefferson Golf Course. Ruby's pohpoh and gunggung lived in Chinatown. Ruby lived near the Jefferson Golf Course. The No. 3 bus brought PohPoh to Ruby, or Ruby to PohPoh, whenever GungGung was too busy to drive them, and they saw each other as often as they could. Ruby liked her school. Kimball Elementary was usually four blocks away. But whenever Ruby got the urge, school was nine blocks away: two more blocks over to the driving range to look for golf balls that had come through the fence, three blocks backtracking to school. Ruby was almost eight and was finally allowed to walk to school by herself. She wore lots of reflective tape -- just so her mother wouldn't have to worry, especially on foggy mornings. "Everyone should wear reflective tape," Ruby liked to say. And she got to say this every year at the school safety assembly. Ruby liked her new wallet. The librarian gave out a shiny wallet to every child who became a card-carrying member of the Beacon Hill Public Library. It was school-bus yellow and closed with crunchy Velcro. Ruby carried her wallet everywhere. It meant that she was almost ready for a driver's license and credit cards. Ruby could hardly wait. Ruby especially liked after school. Mr. Tupahotu's magic class began at 3:12 sharp. Ruby was never late. Mr. Tupahotu had been a famous magician before he became a teacher. He turned scarves into butterflies. He floated a beautiful lady in midair. He owned 513 rabbits (not all at once). He appeared on TV. He signed an autograph for Ruby. The Great Tupahotu was now just a regular guy, but he was not your regular second-grade teacher. He could read a whole Russian novel (without falling asleep) and usually one of Ruby's book reports (without confusing the two). In addition he could tell who threw the paper airplane just by the way it was folded, and fold a much more impressive one. He knew the difference between a person, place, and thing, except sometimes when it came to Ruby's imaginative writing. And he could write in cursive, even on the blackboard. In magic class he made everything look so easy. But everything was actually very hard. Ruby could never do any of the tricks the first time around. Or the second. Or sometimes even the 199th. But she was getting better. She could put a coin through her elbow. She could cut a string into two pieces and then turn it back into one piece. She could hypnotize a handkerchief and make it obey. She could almost make a coin stand up just by blowing on it. She could make knots disappear...usually. And she could make flowers appear...sometimes. Ruby starred in her very own backyard magic show, Ruby's Magic Madness. And neighbors on 20th Avenue South agreed that she was truly amazing. Ruby liked her neighbors. Wally lived across the street. Before that he'd lived in Hong Kong. Wally was the only child Ruby knew who could speak Cantonese without having gone to Chinese school. He was fluent, Ruby's mother said, which meant that he could speak Chinese all day without running out of words. Ruby was very impressed. Still, she was glad when Wally did not sign up for magic class. With a little help from Ruby, he had signed up for Bonsai Club. Tiger was Ruby's best friend. He lived two blocks away, but it felt like he lived next door. He was faster than e-mail. "Don't break the speed limit!" his mother always called after him. He was also fast at making friends. With just the right smile, he was always saying hi and having a chat. Ruby didn't make friends so quickly. She liked her old friends best. "You never know when a new friend might become another best friend," Tiger told Ruby. "Just smile and look them smack in the eye." But the very best thing about living on 20th Avenue South was Oscar. Oscar was Ruby's baby brother. When he was brand-new, he felt as solid as wrapped tuna from the Pike Place Market and smelled like fresh-baked daan taht . He was more beautiful than Ruby had imagined. She had waited a very long time for him. And when he came home from the hospital, she had nearly forgotten that she had wished for a puppy. The second very best thing about living on 20th Avenue South was Emma. Emma had the cutest, sweetest little dog. He had a mouthful of pointy teeth and little feet with toenails that went dop-dop-dop wherever he went. His name was Elwyn and he was bilingual. He obeyed commands in Cantonese (thanks to Wally) and in English. He'd graduated summa cum laude from dog obedience school, and so had Emma. Emma was very proud of Elwyn. And Elwyn was happy to be the only dog on 20th Avenue South. But Emma also had a baby brother. When he was brand-new, he, too, felt like wrapped fish and smelled like something freshly baked. Sam was more beautiful than Emma had imagined. She had waited a very long time for him. And when he arrived, she and Ruby became as close as sisters. Sam weighed 8 pounds, 10 ounces, at birth. So did Oscar. Sam scored a 9.5 out of a perfect 10 on his Apgar test. So did Oscar. Sam could tell when it was lunchtime. So could Oscar. When Sam was only two days old, he smiled at Emma. "It's just gas," Ruby had explained. "It says here that if babies smile before four weeks old, it's only because of gas." That's what the baby book said. But Emma didn't believe it. Emma smiled at Sam. And Sam smiled back. Ruby saw it with her very own eyes. She'd had to think fast. She climbed their plum tree, but Oscar wasn't watching. Time out. So she climbed back down. She took a bathroom break. When she came back, she tried some jokes. A feather. Funny faces. But all Oscar did was cry and sleep. Ruby wanted to cry too. Waiting for a stinky baby brother to smile was harder than waiting for morning recess at school. Finally, Oscar smiled at Ruby, and he was still only two days old. Before long Sam rolled over. So did Oscar. Sam sat up. So did Oscar. Sam cut his first tooth. So did Oscar. Sam said his first word. "Da," he said. Emma beamed. "Da da da," he said. In case nobody heard, he said it louder, "Da da da!" Ruby looked at Oscar. Oscar looked at Ruby. Oscar really was the cutest little brother on 20th Avenue South. He had headlight eyes, a drippy tongue, and a runny little nose. Ruby liked doing her magic tricks for Oscar, who cooed and drooled and clapped under their plum tree. Ruby's magic show had many fans, but Oscar was the best one of all. When everyone else went home, Oscar was still there. Oscar loved Ruby. And Ruby loved Oscar. But Oscar was not producing , as Emma had delicately put it. "Please," Ruby pleaded. "Say something....Anything." Oscar put all his toes in his mouth. He blew bubbles through his lips. He laughed. To make matters worse, Sam said his second word. And then his third. And his fourth. Soon, he said what sounded like the longest sentence Ruby had ever heard. "Da dee a ma mi haba bee dee bee bee," he said. "Daddy and Mommy have a pretty baby," Emma translated triumphantly. So Ruby tried candy. And presents. She promised fireworks. She tried hypnosis. Desperate, she asked for advice. "Sorry," said the lady at the dog obedience school, giving Oscar the once-over in his puppy suit. "He has to be a real puppy." "Every baby develops at his own rate," Mr. Tupahotu gently told Ruby. "You can't hurry nature." So Ruby tried the library. She borrowed language tapes and videos. She put Oscar in front of the mirror. She moved his lips. He moved his hips. Ruby was a convincing ventriloquist. And Oscar was ready for his nap. Ruby was close to tears. Oscar gave Ruby a yawn. And a burp. But Oscar did not say boo. That night Ruby dreamed that Oscar was making a speech. "My fellow babies...," Oscar began. Millions were transfixed. When Oscar finished, the applause was thunderous and utterly transporting. Ruby clapped loudest of all. The next morning Ruby ran straight to Oscar's room. But Oscar the Orator was nowhere to be seen. It was just the same old Oscar. And Ruby felt her love for him getting thin around the edges. Now the worst thing about living on 20th Avenue South was Oscar. Oscar was not talking. If only Oscar would say something -- one word -- everything would be right again. Rain would fall. Slugs would ooze. Plums would grow. It was all Ruby wanted. It was all she could think of. She wished for it with her cigar box full of old birthday candles and Thanksgiving wishbones. And just before falling asleep, she wished for it upon all the stars in the sky. Copyright (c) 2004 by Lenore Look Chapter 2: Ruby's Magic Madness One day, when Ruby was busy, Oscar spoke. "See," he peeped. "Seeeeeeee." His words were glass-noodle clear. Ruby froze. "See," Oscar repeated. "Seeeeee." He pointed at Ruby's sleeve where she had hidden her coin for Ruby's Vanishing Quarter trick. Ruby could not remember what she was doing. Clink! A shiny quarter fell out of her sleeve and rolled away. Everyone laughed. Ruby's audience thought Oscar was very funny. Oscar clapped and blew bubbles through his lips. Everyone laughed again. Almost everyone, that is. Ruby did not laugh. Ruby moved on to her next trick, Magnetic Ruby, in which a spoon sticks to Ruby's hand as though she is magnetic. "See," Oscar said. "Seeeeee Bee!" "Bee" was Oscar's second word (He could not quite say "Ruby."). And he pointed right at where she was holding the spoon. The crowd roared. Plums dropped from the tree. Oscar clapped. He was very clever. Now everyone could see that "Bee's" finger was secretly bent around the spoon. Ruby closed her eyes. She wished with all her magical powers that she could make Oscar disappear. But when she opened her eyes, he was still there. The next day Ruby did her tricks faster. And trickier. She sprinkled magic dust. And she said the magic Cantonese words, "Sic faan! Sic faan! " -- which means "Eat rice! Eat rice!" Ruby couldn't think of any Cantonese or English words more magical than that. She waved her arms. She flapped her cape. Ruby held her breath. The tree held its plums. It was so quiet, you could hear someone's TV through an open window. Everyone turned to look at Oscar. But Oscar was holding his breath too, his cheeks inflated like balloons. Everyone clapped for Ruby, who was again truly amazing on 20th Avenue South. Ruby was so pleased she gave an encore, performing her very special Knot in Hand trick. Everyone was mesmerized. Everyone that is, except Oscar. "See Bee," Oscar peeped. He made a fist like Ruby's, then pointed at it with his other hand to show where the knot was. Oscar smiled sweetly. "More!" Wally shouted. "More!" Tiger stomped. "Os-car! Os-car! Os-car!" they all chanted, giving Ruby's baby brother a stomping ovation. A hard, green plum fell smack on Ruby's head. Ouch! Ruby was mad. If only Oscar would babble and act like the baby that he was, everything would be right again on 20th Avenue South. Why did Oscar have to talk so much? Now Ruby was no longer truly amazing on 20th Avenue South. Oscar was. And Ruby felt all her love for him drying up like spilled soda on a hot sidewalk. Ruby's Magic Madness was closed the next day. Instead of performing, Ruby put her elbows on the back of their sofa and sighed heavily and watched the clouds drift past their window. She'd seen her father do this whenever he had lost at Scrabble. Oscar put his elbows on the sofa too, and he watched Ruby and sighed too. Just when Ruby thought she'd never do magic again, she had an idea. A great idea! What if Oscar stayed in the house during Ruby's show? He could be as clever as he wanted, as long as no one could see him. Yes! There was even something magical about it. So Oscar stayed indoors. Only Ruby knew that the black tufts moving silently back and forth across the bottom of their window was the top of Oscar's head. Ruby's Magic Madness went on once again. And because magicians never tell their secrets, no matter how much the audience begs, Ruby was once again truly amazing on 20th Avenue South. Until...Emma made her announcement. "Sam can walk," Emma bragged. "Sam can talk. Sam knows his colors. Sam knows his shapes." Then the big sister of all announcements: "Sam even knows magic tricks." Ruby could see that Sam could walk...when he wasn't crawling. Sam could talk...if you considered baby babble talking. Sam knew his colors...except for orange and purple. And his shapes...well, he knew squares. But magic tricks? No way! Sam showed Ruby his Mummy Finger in a Box. He pushed his finger through a hole in the bottom of a little box. He opened the box. Ta-da! There was his finger! He wiggled his finger across the cotton in the box, phh-phh . He closed the box. He opened the box again. His little finger went phh-phh . Now you see it, and now you see it again. Sure was cute. But everyone could see that it was not magic. Ruby couldn't stand it. She ran straight into her house and grabbed Oscar from behind the sofa. In less time than it takes for Tiger to make a friend, Ruby reappeared. She was no ordinary magician. She had a baby brother assistant who could walk fast, talk even faster, and now he knew real magic tricks. She taught him how to blow a half-dollar into a standing position, just like that. (A secret wire attached to the back of the coin and falling through a crack in the table let Oscar pull it upright.) It beat the Mummy Finger in a Box any day. Ruby's Magic Madness was never the same again. It became Ruby's Magic Madness, Featuring the Amazing Oscar. It was famous on 20th Avenue South, where Ruby was truly amazing and Oscar was pretty clever too. But most important of all, Ruby loved Oscar and Oscar loved Ruby, and they loved being least for now. Copyright (c) 2004 by Lenore Look Excerpted from Ruby Lu, Brave and True by Lenore Look, Anne Wilsdorf All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.