Friday, 11 December 2015

Guest Blog Post & review: The Beat on Ruby's Street by Jenna Zark (Children's, 11 years +, 9/10E, short 'n' sweet review)

October 2015, Booktrope, 150 pages, Paperback, Review copy 

Summary from Booktrope
The last thing eleven-year-old Ruby Tabeata expected to happen on her way to a Jack Kerouac reading was to be hauled to the police station. It’s 1958 and Ruby is the opposite of a 1950s stereotype: fierce, funny and strong willed, she is only just starting to chart her course in a family of Beat Generation artists in Greenwich Village. Ruby dreams of meeting famous poets while becoming one herself; instead, she’s accused of trying to steal fruit from a local vendor and is forced to live in a children’s home. As Ruby struggles to return to family and friends, she learns her only choice is to follow her heart. 

Nayu's thoughts 
I was intrigued by Ruby's story because I wanted to find out the reason behind her stealing the apple. The truth made me feel sorry for her, more so because that apple changed her life and meant she became separated from her family. Some parts of the separation was chosen by her parents who had a different relationship to the one Ruby imagined. Although I understood what her parents told her about their situation, I confess to siding with Ruby and wanting her vision of the future to pan out. It didn't. I cried when Ruby's life hit rock bottom because her emotions are vivid and touched my heart. 

I admit I knew nothing about the Beat Generation which Ruby is so obsessed with. It's a good obsession as it keeps her moving forward and something to focus on with all the turmoil in her life. After a few entries I skipped the poems/information about the poems as I found them boring - it must be noted that I'm not fond of poetry! I wanted to read about Ruby, not a poet, even if he was almost the centre of her world. 

Ruby's attitude to life is admirable, she has a spark which made it impossible to put the book down. I think it's a good example of how children can end up in care, and also how they get out of it, that social services are there to help people. I did enjoy roaming the streets of New York which I've read about in other stories (& seen in films), so as far as Ruby's surroundings they were familiar and felt homely to me as much as they did to Ruby. The ending is extremely touching, be sure to have tissues!
About the Author

Jenna Zark is a columnist, lyricist, playwright, and novelist. Her play A Body of Water was published by Dramatists Play Service and produced regionally after its debut at Circle Repertory Company in New York. Other plays were produced in the Twin Cities, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and St. Louis. As a former staff writer at Scholastic Choices magazine, Zark wrote extensively for middle school and junior high students. Columns, poetry, essays, and articles have been published in TC Jewfolk, Stoneboat literary magazine, Minnesota Bride and numerous other publications. Zark is also a member of a lyricist’s collective in the Twin Cities that performs at local cabarets. She’s still trying to figure out if it’s harder to write a play, a novel, or a song. To share your thoughts on that or to learn more, please visit

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*Find the book*

Guest Blog Post from Jenna Zark: When the Trouble Started on Ruby's Street

  A small hand, a fruit store, an apple and a blood orange were all I needed to get things rolling in The Beat on Ruby’s Street. Eleven-year-old Ruby reached out to move an apple in a Greenwich Village fruit store and was promptly accused by the store owner of trying to steal it.

I began with this moment because of my own memories of getting in trouble as a child. How many of us have stood in line at school while the person next to us pushed someone or took her bag—and then stood silently by when we were blamed for it? Experiences like those always seemed much worse to me than when I’d actually done something and gotten in trouble on my own.

But the worse the experience is, the more interesting it can be to read about. Because we don’t read about other people’s lives if nothing happens to them. We want the characters we read about to experience tough times because weve experienced them. And… we want to know how these characters deal with all the unfairness and craziness life throws at them. (At least, I do.)

When I started writing Ruby’s story, I worked on creating a situation that would get the attention of the police and a social worker—and be the start of Ruby’s troubles throughout the novel. Because the story takes place in 1958 and Ruby’s parents aren’t married, I thought that no social worker could possibly approve. That disapproval would lead us into a situation where Ruby’s life would spiral out of control.

Another reason I started with the apple was because Ruby is hungry, and the more we get to know her, the more we understand why. Her life as a Beat means her family is unconventional, and three square meals a day would be considered, well… “square” and boring in her Beat family home. Cereal dinners, skipped breakfasts and lunches wherever she can get them are more the norm in Ruby’s life.

Those skipped meals may be part of the reason she reached for the apple—but her code of ethics, or as she would say, what’s cool and not cool, would keep her from stealing it. At the same time, who would believe a little Beat girl surrounded by temptations in a store?

The more I wrote about her, the more obvious it became to me that Ruby’s hunger is more than physical. She’s hungry for life, and the people she admires most know how to live it, fully and passionately. That passion is what moves Ruby to rebel against the authority figures in her world and do the one thing she’s most afraid to do. I don’t want to add any spoilers here, so I’ll leave the rest of the story to readers who want to know more.

To learn more about the Beats and the times they lived in, you might want to read “This is the Beat Generation” by John Clellon Holmes. And if you’d like to share your own memories about getting in trouble as a child (when you were really not to blame)—I’d love to hear them! Please feel free to send me a note at
--Jenna Z

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