Thursday, 20 September 2012

Ruby Redfort: Look Into My Eyes, by Lauren Child

Ruby Redfort is a super sleuth and master code-breaker. She sees things the rest of us don’t and makes it her mission to watch and be aware. She has filled six hundred and twenty two yellow notebooks with her observations - because you never know what might be important - and lives by a set of self-created rules, such as ‘say nothing’ {rule 4}, ‘people often miss the downright obvious’ {rule 18}, and ‘panic will freeze your brain’ {rule 19}.

At the beginning of Look Into My Eyes, Ruby is entangled in a series of both mysterious and mundane events:

  • Returning from a holiday abroad, her parents’ baggage has gone missing,
  • The bank of Twinford, the town in which Ruby resides, is due to receive a large delivery of gold bullion,
  • Ruby’s mother is wildly excited about an upcoming exhibition at the Twinford Museum of a precious Jadeite Buddha,
  • The Redfort house is not only robbed but completely stripped, even the fridge and its contents,
  • The Redfort housekeeper Mrs. Digby disappears after an argument with Conseula, the tomato-obsessed nutritionist,
  • And Hitch, a strangely competent butler-come-house-manager with a dodgy shoulder arrives.

Which of these are going to turn out to be important, and which ones are mere happenstance? Is it all just coincidence, or are they somehow connected?

On top of all this, Ruby and her code breaking observationist skills are recruited by Spectrum, a secret government agency, who needs her to solve a mystery they believe will lead them to the Fool’s Gold Gang, who are planning to rob the bank on the eve of its gold deposit. Will Ruby be able to put all of the pieces together in time?

Look Into My Eyes is a truly quirky offering from Lauren Child, the famed author of Clarice Bean and Charlie and Lola, perhaps the quirkiest twist being that in the Clarice Bean series, the Ruby Redfort stories are Clarice’s favourite books. The language is brilliant and original, full of slightly outdated usage such as ‘bozo’, ‘pulling your leg’, ‘buster’, ‘geez’, and ‘darn it!’ This, along with various other little clues that I’m sure I read, but now can’t quite put my finger on, make me think of an early 1970s setting - for some reason, I can’t help but picture Ruby’s house as being decorated with loud 1970s decor.

The story is highly adventurous, not to mention chock-full of codes and secret messages for the wily reader to figure out, and Ruby is constantly kept on her toes trying to (a) outwit the adults with whom she is surrounded, and (b) convince said adults of the importance of her discoveries. As I was reading, I couldn’t help but wonder firstly whether there were codes embedded in the text that I should be weaseling out, and secondly, whether her parents truly are as oblivious as they seem. Is it all a ruse, or a part of the greater mystery?

With hidden underground buildings, communication by toast, following people and being followed, secret messages posted via the ‘wanted’ ads, Bond-worthy gadgets, kidnap, and criminals with names such as Nine Lives and Baby Face Marshall, this is a book that can’t fail to capture the imagination. Ruby herself is full of vitality, wit and cunning, and her sidekick Clancy Crew is a stalwart friend with a gut instinct that is not to be ignored. Pages of fun.

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