The one and only Ruby by Katherine Applegate

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This is a third verse novel in the series, following on from the award-winning The One and Only Ivan (based on a true story) and its sequel The One and Only Bob. The One and Only Ruby picks up shortly after the Bob installment, taking place in a wildlife sanctuary where she now lives with a herd of aunty elephants as well as being close to both Ivan and Bob. Ruby is growing up and her tusks are coming in, which means it is nearly time for her Tusk Day. But Ruby has a secret; she doesn't like her tusks and she doesn't want to celebrate them. When a carer from her old orphanage shows up it reminds Ruby of all sorts of things from her past- both good and bad. She lightens her load by sharing her story, which helps the others to understand her and her feelings and make her Tusk Day a happy experience.

The first-person narration helps the reader to empathise with Ruby as we directly hear her feelings, experiences and fears. Her voice is a relatable child's voice and equatable to human life: relationships with family, self-doubt, worries, grief and curiosity. Applegate manages to anthropomorphise Ruby, while at the same time telling a true-to-life tale of an elephant. There are some distressing themes, including drought, death, grief, poaching and painful memories but these are tempered with the supportive network of humans and animals in the wildlife park and touches of humour in Ruby's conversations and wonderings. 

The verse format of the novel means that despite it being 200 pages it is really approachable, with plenty of white space, text broken up with headings and a smattering of black and white illustrations. The book includes an elephant body language visual dictionary, a glossary of terms used in the story, a sneak-peak of Ivan for those who haven't read it and a brief author's note about the true plight of elephants in the wild and in cruel captivity. There is also a film adaptation of The One and Only Ivan. There is no need to have read the other books first, this stands perfectly well alone, but it will be adored by fans of the other books, wildlife and conservation advocates and those who enjoy verse novels and true stories.

Themes: Wild Animals, Friendship, Empathy, Kindness, Memories, Novels in Verse.

Nicole Nelson