Title: A Friend for Ruby
Author: Sofie Laguna
Illustrator: Marc McBride
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Publication date: 29 August 2023
A Friend for Ruby by Sofie Laguna, illustrated by Marc McBride and published by Allen and Unwin is a story about friendship, connection and resourcefulness. It could serve as a gateway to conversations about a healthy friendship where all parties’ needs are being met.
After a particularly difficult week for Ruby at school, one where she was excluded, teased and felt the brunt of nasty behaviours from her peers, she makes a startling discovery on the beach. A mystical creature with a golden unicorn horn, covered in vibrant glowing colours and what appears to be blooming plant life, has washed up on the beach. The creature, despite its colour and what appear to be magical qualities has a forlorn look. Ruby sees this creature as an instant friend and sets about brining it to her home and making a space for it in her cubby.
She attempts to look after her new friend, feeding and entertaining it based on what she feels it would enjoy, rather than what the creature needs to be healthy and happy. It proves quite the challenge secretly keeping a gigantic ocean creature in the cubby. To satisfy its massive appetite Ruby enlists the help of Sarah, the baker’s daughter.
After a failed attempt to return the creature to the sea, Ruby’s Granma discovers the creature and assures Ruby that together they will come up with a plan to return it to its home.
What ensues is a journey of discovery which highlights the importance of connection to a place as well as an unexpected new friendship for Ruby that occurs because of the creature.
The illustrations are breathtaking and full of whimsical details that add another layer to the story. The endpapers (different from each other) are glorious and the front endpapers will pique readers interest and have them pondering the footprints, questioning who they might belong to. The story contained on the back endpapers is heartwarming. Marc McBride deftly captures the emotions of all of the characters such as Ruby’s utter joy at having what she feels is a new friend and the creature’s sadness at being apart from its home and family. The underwater seascape scene is rich in colour and life and utterly fascinating to savour with its stunning details.
This is a story that is a joy to revisit, the illustrations reveal a delightful new discovery the more time is spent lingering on the pages. Readers might enjoy writing an imaginative piece from the point of view of the creature or a profile on the creature – naming it and reporting on its appearance, where it lives, likes and dislikes.