“Ruby is a folk hero for the nineties” – New York Times.
This is a special book for me. It was the first picture book where I both wrote the story and created the illustrations. It was also the first book that I published after making a real conscious decision to try and make a career of this rather than just make money. I now had, “aspirations”.
After quitting a job creating computer graphics for an oil exploration training company in Boston, I took a long trip to California, Australia, New Zealand, and Tahiti. On return, I had no job, and a decision to make. I chose to try children’s books again after many years, but this time, doing books with a story and characters. Problem was, the only writing I had done to date was C grade high school writing classes. But I was determined, partly for artistic reasons, but also because the author gets 50% of the money – pretty important when you’re only making five thousand dollars a year doing books.
I had more lean years as I tried to learn to write. I had friends that helped type and edit over 25 drafts of the manuscript. I also wrote several other manuscripts simultaneously, going back and forth between them. After three long years, I walked into John Keller’s office at Little, Brown on top of Beacon Hill in Boston with five manuscripts and four complete book “dummies”. It was overkill by anyone’s standard, but I was nervous. I had more at stake this time, unlike many years ago, when I walked in the same office with my first book, Dinosaurs! ten years before.
One of those book dummies was RUBY.
The story for Ruby changed many times on it’s way to completion. It began as a story called Lauralie. I was trying to be clever, as the story revolved around honesty and lies. Well, it began to sound a lot like Little Red Riding Hood and I had to make a decision: change it completely, or move it towards a take-off of a classic tale. I did the latter. And it was more fun I think.
The sassy dialogue has a lot of old Bugs Bunny/Vaudeville timing to it. I always liked those old cartoons and the jokes I never really got.
The location is the streets of Boston’s South End where I lived and worked at the time. I had a studio in an old building that was a sixth floor walk-up. In fact, the view on the endpapers is the view from my old studio window.
The added character of the reptile is left over from the original book’s concept that you can’t always tell who is lying based on whether they are nasty or nice. The reptile is definitely nasty and repulsive, but he doesn’t claim to be anything than what he is. The cat however, is a complete, velvety lie from tail to tongue.
I think if someone forced me to name my favorite book, it might just be Ruby. Or is it the sequel?…
“In transplanting “Little Red Riding Hood” from the country to the streets of Boston, Emberley plays fast and loose with some of the traditional elements of the story. The bizarre collection of creatures stalking Beantown’s streets look a lot like the motley crew from the bar scene in Star Wars…Emberley brings this urbanized Red Riding Hood vividly to life, with multi-colored, intensley detailed paintings capturing the clutter and constant motion of city life. …Ruby is a folk hero for the nineties…” — Booklist
“A delightful modern take-off on Red Riding Hood : …Hilariously depict(ing) urban blight and it’s denizens…A deft cartoon-like style to rival Stevensen’s or Marshall’s; dozens of imaginative comic details (the animal caracatures of city dwellers going doggedly about their business are especially wonderful); and Emberley’s brisk pungent telling make this one of the year’s most deliciously amusing picture books.” — Kirkus Reviews
“There has been a recent inundation of take-offs on familiar traditional tales, but this Red Riding Hood variation has enough plot twists and innovation to keep readers involved and interested. The illustrations show congested city roads and bustling sidewalks teeming with animals from all walks of life. Ruby is an independant,outspoken street-smart mouse whose language is surprising but never in bad taste: she is simply confronting the hazards of city living. readers will know she will survive it all and have her fun.” —School Library Journal
“(A) delectable, citified twist on Little Red Riding Hood…” — Publisher’s Weekly
* (Sadly, this book is currently out-of-print.)