Reviews for Center of Everything
Booklist Reviews 2013 February #2
*Starred Review* After opening with a tall (and rather round) tale about the stormy origins of the doughnut, Urban's latest middle-grade novel zeros in on a grieving 12-year-old girl in a New Hampshire town founded by doughnut inventor Captain Bunning in 1847. As part of the annual Bunning Day parade, Ruby Pepperdine waits to give a speech to honor the captain. And this wait stretches for almost the entire book, for Urban has deftly structured Ruby's story as a series of flashbacks. While the parade proceeds and Ruby shuffles through her index cards, which have fallen out of order, her memories of recent and disquieting incidents come forward. As with some of Sharon Creech's novels, the reasons behind the protagonist's grief and confusion are revealed gradually. Urban also conveys the way mourning can alter one's sense of time and normalcy. Ruby's grandmother has died, and it soon becomes apparent that their last exchange was deeply upsetting to Ruby. She hopes to somehow remedy that with a wish she has earned through a town tradition--the tossing of a quarter through the bronze doughnut held aloft by the town's Captain Bunning statue. Throughout this slim, affecting novel, Urban treats Ruby's bewilderment with care and gracefully reinforces the value of friends, family, and community. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.
BookPage Reviews 2013 March
A wish to set things right
Is it destiny when 12-year-old Ruby is named the Bunning Day Essay Girl and chosen to deliver a rousing speech at her New Hampshire hometown parade? In Linda Urban’s thoughtful novel, The Center of Everything, Ruby keeps looking for signs like these that her wish will come true and she’ll be able to go back in time and be with her grandmother Gigi on the day she died. Maybe then she will understand the final word Gigi uttered that day.
Despite the weighty topic of Ruby’s mourning, this story also produces plenty of smiles as a delightful narrator gives the history of the fictional town of Bunning. During a fierce storm in 1847, Captain Cornelius Bunning rammed his donuts onto the spokes of the ship’s wheel, thus creating the first donut holes. He later used the beams of his ship to build a schoolhouse in the town. “Hole”-some puns and legends abound in Bunning’s honor.
Dealing with her grandmother’s death is not the only big adjustment in Ruby’s life. When classmate Nero DeNiro (who’s as outlandish as his name) takes an interest in Ruby, she must reconcile her relationship with her longtime best friend and her feelings of first love. In a bittersweet ending, Ruby discovers that her grandmother’s death has given her a new appreciation of the world around her. The only holes in this charming story are the ones served up in this donut-obsessed town. Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Fall
Instructed to make a color wheel, Ruby completes the assignment by making one just like the art teacher's. This, Ruby believes, is what she's "supposed to do." But then she begins to wonder: "What if there is no such thing as 'supposed to'?" Ruby begins to ponder her role as "the good girl" in a story by turns thought-provoking, humorous, and poignant.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2013 #2
Every year, the sixth graders at Bunning Elementary School in southern New Hampshire create a color wheel. Their art teacher, Mrs. Thomas, gives basic instructions: include twelve colors, put them in order, and identify the complementary ones. She provides a model that looks like a bicycle wheel with spokes; Ruby Pepperdine completes the assignment by making her wheel just like Mrs. Thomas's. This, Ruby believes, is what she's "supposed to do." True to character, she has figured out what is expected of her and met, but not exceeded, those expectations. But then she spies Nero DeNiro's cleverly executed wheel and begins to wonder: "What if there is no such thing as ‘supposed to'?" Literally and metaphorically, Ruby colors within the lines; Nero goes outside the boundaries. Ruby begins to ponder her own life and her role as the "good girl" and looks for divine help (through a complicated traditional birthday wish) for guidance. The different segments of Ruby's life, like those in the color wheel, had a center: her beloved, but recently deceased, grandmother. But in an intriguing backstory that plays out almost entirely during the town's annual parade, Ruby realizes that she can become a center for others. By turns thought-provoking, humorous, and poignant, Ruby's story introduces a multi-faceted character well worth meeting. betty carter
Kirkus Reviews 2013 February #2
Sixth-grader Ruby Pepperdine always used to be "good at figuring out what she was supposed to do," but since her grandmother's death, she's lost the center of everything. Growing up in Bunning, N.H., Ruby always listened to her grandmother, Gigi, until the day Gigi died, and Ruby didn't listen to her. Since Ruby does what's expected, she thinks she should be back to normal after Gigi's death. For three months, she's pretended to be fine, not even telling her best friend "how out of balance she's felt." On her 12th birthday, Ruby makes a special wish that everything will be the way it's supposed to be by the time she reads her prizewinning essay at the Bunning Day Parade. But when the day arrives, Ruby wonders if there's any such thing as "supposed to." Maybe listening and connecting are a lot more important. Written in the third person, present tense, Ruby's story unfolds from her perspective on the day of the parade as she thinks back to what led to her obsessive wish to know what her grandmother tried to tell her. Ruby's a credible heroine, and her response to her grandmother's death rings true. Repetitive motifs of circles, centers and holes reinforce the theme of loss. A poignant, finely wrought exploration of grief. (Fiction. 9-12) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Media Connection Reviews 2013 October
Although it starts with a story about donuts, this quietly thoughtful book is an exploration of the inner life of sixth-grader Ruby Pepperdine, haunted by the memory of the day her grandmother died. As she waits to read her winning essay at the parade celebrating the town's founder and inventor of the donut hole, flashbacks and vignettes of events leading to this day show her friends, family, and organizations connected to her grandmother. Instead of reading the essay, Ruby requests a moment of silence in her grandmother's memory. Accessible despite its nonlinear structure and unconventional narrative voice, this is an excellent choice for reading groups or book clubs. Between the narrator addressing the reader directly and the rich philosophical questions, it is sure to prompt discussions. This is also a book that some will want to read, re-read, and think about on their own. Elizabeth Dejean, Teacher Librarian, P.S. 360, Bronx, New York [Editor's Note: Available in e-book format.] IGHLY RECOMMENDED Copyright 2012 Linworth Publishing, Inc.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 January #1
The poignancy that characterized Urban's A Crooked Kind of Perfect and Hound Dog True is also present in this novel about wishes and regret. Months after her grandmother's death, 12-year-old Ruby Pepperdine composes a winning essay honoring her New Hampshire town's namesake: Capt. Cornelius Bunning, inventor of the doughnut. Ruby should be ecstatic that she gets to read her essay in front of the whole community on Bunning Day, but her mind is on other things, especially how she didn't listen to her grandmother's final words before she died. Ruby thinks that maybe if she wishes hard enough, "everything will be back to how it is supposed to be," but making a wish the right way is a tricky business. In a story whose winding plot echoes the doughnut shape that fascinates Ruby, Urban traces how Ruby discovers connections among dissimilar phenomena, including the nature of relativity, everyday sounds, and being part of a community. Ruby's large imagination and even bigger heart are beautifully evoked as the sixth-grader finds a way to keep the memory of her grandmother alive. Ages 9-12. (Mar.) [Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC
School Library Journal Reviews 2013 April
Gr 4-6--From the time she was in preschool, Ruby Pepperdine has been good at figuring out what she was supposed to do. When her grandmother passes away without Ruby having a chance to listen to what Gigi tried to tell her the morning she died, Ruby knows what she needs to do. Everyone in town knows that if you find a quarter from the year of your birth, repeat your wish 90 times, then on your birthday toss the quarter through the hole of the doughnut held aloft by the statue of the town's founder, your wish will come true. Quarter in hand, Ruby completes the ritual. Will the wish come true? Ruby worries that there is something else she is supposed to do to help it along. In fact, she focuses so hard on her wish that she begins to lose sight of everything (and everyone) around her. Ruby's story flashes back and forth between what should be her wish-fulfillment day and the events leading up to it. As the day draws near, it's clear that she stands to lose more than just the chance to right a wrong with her grandmother. The story is sweet, but a bit slow on the lead-up to Ruby's big day. Give this to patient readers who enjoy Polly Horvath's The Vacation (2005) and Everything on a Waffle (2001) or Ruth White's Way Down Deep (2007) and Belle Prater's Boy (1996, all Farrar).--Kelly Roth, Bartow County Public Library, Cartersville, GA [Page 174]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.