84 pages 2 hours read

Sharon Creech

Ruby Holler

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2002

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Summary and Study Guide

Overview

Ruby Holler (2002) is a middle grade novel by Sharon Creech. It tells the story of twins, a brother and sister, who are orphaned and live at a children’s home. Their lives change unexpectedly when they are given the opportunity to travel with an elderly couple during their summer vacation.

The author of 21 books, Creech was awarded the Newbery Medal for Walk Two Moons (1994) and received a Newbery honor for The Wanderer (2000). Ruby Holler won Great Britain’s Carnegie Medal. Her works have been translated into more than 20 languages.

This guide refers to the 2002 hardcover edition by Joanna Cotler Books, a Harper Collins imprint.

Plot Summary

Florida and Dallas, 13, are orphaned twins residing at Boxton Creek Home for Children. The Home is run by Mr. and Mrs. Trepid—an unkind couple with endless rules who mete out punishment when their rules are inevitably broken. The twins have garnered a reputation as “trouble,” having lived in several foster homes only to be returned to Boxton Creek Home each time for their supposed ill behavior. Dallas and Florida have only one another for support, are committed to each other, and dream of a day when they will escape Boxton Creek Home forever by train.

Their lives change when a 60-year-old man and his wife—Tiller and Sairy Morey—invite the twins to travel with them for the summer. The husband and wife have separate destinations they long to see, and each spouse does not desire to accompany the other. They plan for Florida to accompany Tiller on a boat trip on the Rutabago River and for Dallas to accompany Sairy to Kangadoon. The twins go with the couple to their home in Ruby Holler—a lush valley surrounded by trees, flowers, and a river. There the couple lives a quiet life in a small cottage where they miss their four grown children. Dallas and Florida are skeptical when they are given soft beds to sleep in and good food to eat, certain there must be a catch to their good fortune.

In the days leading to the trip, the twins are surprised—not only do the Moreys not set numerous rules; they do not mete out cruel punishment or chores. Gradually, the twins grow to trust Tiller and Sairy, revealing their mistreatment and abuse at various foster homes and explaining the origin of their names. When they were infants, they appeared on the doorstep of Boxton Creek Home in a box. Underneath each twin was a travel brochure. The twins were named for the respective locations advertised by each pamphlet: Dallas and Florida.

Sairy and Tiller guide them in preparation for their respective trips—buying clothing, supplies, and gear. In the interim, they teach the twins to whittle, as both Sairy and Dallas enjoy passing the time this way—Sairy by whittling birds and Tiller by whittling boats.

During their stay at Ruby Holler, the twins learn of the “understone funds”—secret hiding places where Tiller and Sairy have buried their money on the property. One day, Dallas reveals the existence of these funds to Mr. Trepid on a routine check-in. From here, Mr. Trepid sets in motion a plan to steal the funds from the Moreys by hiring a man known only as “Z.” Z’s job is to locate where the money is likely buried and note them on a map for Trepid.

After the twins return to Ruby Holler, they decide to escape by train as they have dreamed of all along. They take the sleeping bags the Moreys have purchased for their trips and set out after dark. However, they have second thoughts and decide to finalize their decision in the morning. They sleep in the holler and are awakened by the smell of cooking bacon. Sairy and Tiller (suspecting the twins plan to run away) have set up a campsite of their own, pretending to believe that the twins were merely testing out their travel gear. They propose that true trials—paddling the river for Florida and Tiller, hiking for Dallas and Sairy—is a wise idea.

As they are off on their trial trips, Z secretly scouts the property. He maps several potential understone fund locations and informs Trepid. Excited by the prospect of the money, Trepid and his wife dream of leaving Boxton Creek Home for an exotic island. Meanwhile, the trial trips do not go as planned: Sairy and Dallas become lost, having forgotten to pack essential supplies, such as a compass and water. Florida and Tiller’s excursion takes a dangerous turn when the boat is capsized by the river current. Both are thrown from the boat and separated. At this moment, Dallas has a bad feeling that something is wrong with Florida and convinces Sairy that they must go to her aid.

Dallas and Sairy locate Florida and Tiller with the help of Z, who is actually a neighbor of Sairy and Tiller’s. Florida has been able to pull herself on shore, then pull Tiller—who is unconscious—ashore as well. Tiller is taken to the hospital, where the others learn he has suffered a heart attack. Fortunately, Tiller recovers. While they wait for him to be discharged from the hospital, Sairy, Z, Florida, and Dallas prepare a trick to get the better of Trepid. In each of the places Z has marked on the map as being “understone fund” sites, they bury unpleasant items. In a final hole, they bury fake rubies, diamonds, and emeralds.

Tiller returns home from the hospital, and two of the Morey children—Lucy and Buddy—arrive. Dallas and Florida hear the four talking during the night; the children attempt to convince Sairy and Tiller that they should return the twins to the Boxton Creek Home, that they are too old to care for them. Dallas becomes angry and attempts to convince Florida to carry out their train escape. As before, they decide they will wait until the morning and watch for a sign as to whether they should indeed run away or not. In the morning, the Moreys cook breakfast and the twins regard this as a sign that they should stay in Ruby Holler.

Creech presents the novel from multiple points of view, including Dallas’s, Florida’s, Sairy’s, Tiller’s, Z’s, and both of the Trepids’. Their perspective is presented in third person.

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