RUBY THE COPYCAT by Peggy Rathmann is the endearing story of a sensitive and creative little girl learning to confidently be herself. I fell in love with this book a few years ago, and it's become an enduring family favorite. I even bought a second copy when the first one went missing.
From the first illustration of Ruby shyly peeking around the door at her new classmates to the last image of her happily hopping toward the horizon, hand-in-hand with her new friend, Ruby had my heart. As the new girl in school, Ruby immediately latches onto Angela and begins to copy her every move. Angela becomes increasingly annoyed and pulls away, and the discerning Miss Hart encourages Ruby to just be herself. "You can be anything you want to be, but be Ruby first. I like Ruby." Alas, Ruby's concentration is not on Miss Hart's advice but rather on her beautifully polished pink fingernails. Ruby doesn't copy Angela any longer -- Miss Hart has become her new idol to imitate.
One of the things I like best about this book is that the writing lends itself very nicely to being acted out. There's hand waving and gesticulating, whispering and weeping, and of course the joyous hopping that is revealed to be Ruby's own special talent. (That'll wear the kids out!)
The illustrations are colorful and expressive. They are so detailed, they almost tell the complete story themselves. Certainly, they tell parts of the story that words do not. You'll need to dawdle over the pictures to realize just how inventively Ruby copies Angela's purple flowered sweater. And when you get to the page with the seemingly inconsequential student drawings hanging on the wall, make sure to take the time to pick out Angela and Ruby's strikingly similar artwork.
Much to my sorrow, as the kids at my house get older, we are reading this story less and less often. I'm thinking it would be perfect to set aside for the day I get to read to THEIR kids!
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
It seems that something other than coincidence is at work when diminutive Ruby, a newcomer to Miss Hart's class, is entranced by schoolmate Angela's attention-getting red bow and returns from lunch with an identical bow atop her head. Ruby's maddening habit becomes increasingly apparent as she happily endures a rainbow of wet paint in imitation of Angela's hand-painted outfit, proudly plagiarizes Angela's poetry and tries pink press-on nails after admiring Miss Hart's manicure. Finally, challenged to display a talent all her own, Ruby admits that she likes to hop and masterfully bounces around her desk. To her surprise, she impresses her classmates and wins Angela's friendship at last. Rathmann's expressively illustrated, quirky and individualistic first book encourages readers to have confidence and not to take skills, however unimpressive they may seem, for granted. Ages 4-8. (Nov.)