Creech, S. (2002). Ruby Holler. HarperCollins.
Winner of the Carnegie Medal - 2002
Ruby Holler, written by Sharon Creech, is a novel about two orphans named Dallas and Florida, who initially live in an orphanage called the Boxton Creek Home for Children, which is run by the surly Mr. and Mrs. Trepid. The two children have one bad experience after another as they are tried with families, none of which treat them the way they deserve, and they end up back in the home. It’s when an elderly couple, Sairy and Tiller, have Dallas and Florida come live with them in their picturesque country setting near the mountains called Ruby Holler. At first, Florida and Dallas brace themselves for the worst, as their past experiences have always dealt them unfair treatment. Florida, the girl, is the more cynical of the twins, and Dallas, the boy, has a little more of a hope for things. As they take journeys to explore nature, they all four learn about each other and about the importance of trust. In the end, Sairy and Tiller show them the simplistic beauty of the holler and the wonder of being loving and caring in life.
Dallas and Florida have a hard time initially thinking any of the good, down to Earth treatment that they are receiving is genuine, and simple necessities in life, such as food and their own lofty area to sleep in, is too good to be true to the twins, even though it is true. Sairy, the older woman, consistently has a lovely demeanor about her, and even when her husband Tiller has some doubts about it working sneak up, she always consoles him with her gentleness that it will be fine. Their own children are grown and have moved out of the holler, and the company of the children grows more and more delightful, and the tough to crack twins start to open up a bit and begin to learn to trust in the situation. Sairy and Tiller have two long standing personal wishes to experience in their lives before they get too old: Sairy desires to travel to the island of Kangadoon to see an exotic bird, and Tiller wants to go canoeing on the Rutabago River. Sairy and Tiller decide to take on their adventures, Sairy with Dallas and Tiller taking Florida. It is during these adventures that Sairy and Tiller, albeit on separate journeys, happen upon peeling away layers of defenses that reside within Dallas and Tiller, asking questions and finding out what makes them tick.
Meanwhile, Mr. Trepid, who caught wind of Sairy and Tiller’s “understone funds” (money buried) from Dallas, strikes a deal with the only neighbor of the elderly couple named Z. While the four are on a trip of explorations, Z tricks the greedy Mr. Trepid into believing he is looking for the funds, when really Z is turning the tables of trickery on Mr. Trepid in order to protect his friends that live nearby. Z also comes to the realization that he may possibly be the father of the twins, which motivates him even more to be protective and helpful of the four. Tiller and Florida fall overboard while paddling, and it is with great luck that they both survive. As if both Sairy and Dallas have psychic connections to their significant other, they follow their instinctive call of warning they fear for Tiller and Florida. They just so happen to be able to find the two, just at the right time. They take Tiller to the hospital, where he recovers.
Florida begins to not be as immediately negative about things as the story progresses, and Dallas’s spirit helps to support that, along with the reinforcement that results from continuous positive experiences with the couple. The biggest concept that the twins work on is the concept of trust, and the older couple of Sairy and Tiller help to foster this, showing that there’s more to life. Sairy and Tiller, adoring of each other, show the twins a much different experience about what life and relationships can be between people. In the end, the new happy version of what they can now call family emerges, built on love and trust, two things much needed in life.