RUBY LOST AND FOUND, by Christina Li, Quill Tree Books, May 16, 2023, Hardcover, $19.99 (ages 8-12)
A girl strives to find her place in the world following the death of her beloved grandfather in Ruby Lost and Found, by Christina Li.
Thanks to her Ye-Ye’s epic scavenger hunts, thirteen-year-old Ruby Chu knows San Francisco like the back of her hand. But after his death, she feels lost, and it seems like everyone — from her best friends to her older sister — is abandoning her.
After Ruby gets in major trouble at school, her parents decide she has to spend the summer at a local senior center, with her grandmother, Nai-Nai, and Nai-Nai’s friends for company. When a new boy from Ruby’s grade, Liam Yeung, starts showing up too, Ruby’s humiliation is complete.
But Nai-Nai, her friends, and Liam all surprise Ruby. She finds herself working with Liam, who might not be as annoying as he seems, to help save a historic Chinatown bakery that’s being priced out of the neighborhood. And alongside Nai-Nai, who is keeping a secret that threatens to change everything, Ruby retraces Ye-Ye’s scavenger hunt maps in an attempt to find a way out of her grief — and maybe even find herself. —Synopsis provided by Quill Tree Books
Ruby Lost and Found is one of those books that immediately feels familiar, even though it’s completely unique. That comes, in part, because of author Christina Li’s comfortable prose. It’s warm and inviting and feels a little bit like a hug.
Li drops readers into the heart of San Francisco’s Chinatown — the sights, the smells, the tastes — especially the tastes — practically leap off the page. And it’s against this backdrop that Li explores grief, family dynamics, mental health and change within a community at large.
At the center of it all is Ruby — a seemingly constant disappointment to her parents who can’t help but get into trouble. Except Ruby isn’t a bad kid, and if her parents would take a second to look, they’d realize a lot more is going on than face value.
Ruby Lost and Found is a lovely contemporary middle grade that celebrates relationships and the importance of communication. It’s a great option heading into summer.
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