Ruby Redfort – Take Your Last Breath By Lauren Child
Reviewed by Anne Harré
I earned serious parental brownie points when I brandished a review copy of the latest Redfort novel in front of my 8½ year old daughter. Trouble was, I then didn’t see the book for the next three days and 415 pages. Later it was taken to school and shown about; it was lucky that I managed to get it back at all. There’s been a whole crowd eager to get their hands on the next instalment. I should add that even though this is a second Ruby Redfort adventure, it works perfectly well as a stand-alone novel.
For those not familiar with author Lauren Child you’re in for a treat. She’s the creator of the quirky and cute “Charlie and Lola” for the pre-schoolers/early primary age, as well as the “Clarice Bean” series for the mid primary age. After the recent spate of tedious, simpering vampirette characters, it’s refreshing to read a female character that is as spunky and delightful as Ruby Redfort.
Meet Ruby Redfort: Every smart kid’s smart kid, is the tagline for this book. Ruby is a 13 year old secret agent. In between going to school she lives with a housekeeper, solves crimes, learns how to scuba dive, and lives mostly without her (fabulous) parents. And they are fabulous, they travel the world as breath-holding free-divers and adventurers, so it’s hardly surprising that Ruby is such a gung-ho individual.
In Take Your Last Breath, Ruby must solve the puzzle of a missing fish population, sea birds going inland, moaning voices out to sea and pirates plundering boats that get too close to the Sibling Islands. As she says, “Yes, life was good…well, except for the ruthless pirates and the weird shark action, dead divers and ransacked pleasure cruisers – apart from those things, everything was rosy.”
Along the way Ruby has to crack numerous codes (all of which are real, and the answers are in the back of the book) and deal with her school work. The text is liberally salted with Ruby’s rules, such as RULE 19: PANIC WILL FREEZE YOUR BRAIN.
The real strength with Lauren Childs’ writing is that she never talks down to her readers. She keeps everything at a manageable pace, she understands kids’ humour, their intelligence and their thirst for knowledge. And although the lead character is a female, there’re several boy characters who are just as entertaining. Any kid that enjoys puzzles, codes and adventures on the high seas would enjoy this story. There’s even more about the actual codes and puzzles at www.rubyredfort.com.
I thoroughly enjoyed it, as did my daughter. She loved the humour, the excitement, and above all the gutsy Ruby herself.