Ruby in the Ruins

Written by Shirley Hughes
Review by Valerie Loh

Set in 1945, this book reveals the devastation the Blitz has had on Ruby and her neighbours as the city around them is bombed night after night. Whilst the words convey the story of how her mum refused to leave the house, or even go down the bomb shelter, whilst her husband is serving, we feel for the girl who listens terrified to the bombs falling. Although sent to the country for her safety, Ruby returned to be with her mum. When the war ends and a celebration party can be enjoyed, the fathers do not all return unaffected, or at the same time. The human cost is great.

Ruby has to make space in her home for her father, who is like a stranger to her. From the dialogue of the children, we realise their fathers also need to overcome their war experiences and talk to each other. To the children, the bomb sites of broken houses with staircases leading nowhere appeal as forbidden places, danger signs are ignored, and exploration begins and the inevitable happens. But for Ruby all ends well.

The layout of the book is a joy to the eyes. There is so much scope for further discussion. By covering the opening pages with images of ration books and war time posters, questions form straightaway.

This classic book gives an accurate visual impression of the era, from the bomb sites to the fashions worn and the uniforms of the day, but more than this, it touches on many issues to show how war affects every member of the household and how those changes also have to be overcome. A highly recommended read.