Remarkably Ruby by Terri Libenson
Published by HarperCollins

IN this latest instalment, Terri Libenson has created a graphic novel for readers from eight to 12, which is about developing confidence and friendships – alongside growing up.

With the backdrop of a middle school, each book in the Emmie And Friends series tells a story around one character who attends it, linked only to the others by mentions of names and small references to their stories.

This structure is an unusual but admirable one that takes into account how, in our perception of the world, we are the main character, yet all around us are others with their own thoughts and dreams and worries, living completely independent and complex lives around us.

Ruby is one of the lesser mentioned characters of the series, occasionally used for light comic relief. She feels invisible, beyond being made fun of for her issues with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and while to some it seems small, her restricted diet and frequent trips to the toilet make her a figure of fun to others in a way that often brings her discomfort.

Not only is she self-conscious about this, but also – following a growth spurt – about being much taller than all her classmates. While she lacks friends, she feels there’s nothing she can do to just blend in with the crowd and feel as though she’s in on the joke and not the butt

of it.

While she tries not to show it, Ruby is disappointed by the loss of her friendships from previous school years, including Mia, her old best friend who now seems to hate her. We also follow the journey of Mia, who is so determined to become the class president that she begins to lose touch with her friends and boyfriend along the way.

While the two girls struggle with their relationships, Ruby begins to find a way through in writing and helping to form a poetry club within her school. Through this form of artistic expression and responsibility, she finds connection and hope for her future in school as more than a joke.

Following the journeys of both girls creates a greater understanding of the breakdown of their friendship and how they begin to build or lose their present connections with those around them, following this with a strong impact of contrast.

Where Mia left Ruby behind to find popularity among others, this is beginning to fall apart, whereas Ruby, who has always been unthreatening, is finding her confidence and personal development.

The use of illustration to help tell the story makes this a fantastic way to develop from the simplistic and largely illustrated books of childhood into longer novels, meeting perfectly in the middle in a way that reflects the ageing and maturing of its main characters.

Emmie And Friends as a series, by its nature, has something for everyone, and perfectly encourages its young readers to find who they are and the people who accept them for it, in their own way.