“This poignant story evokes a feeling as welcoming as fresh-baked bread.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Ruby Holler is a beautiful and mysterious place, deep in the country, a “basin in the hills . . . where cool breezes drifted through the trees, and where the creek was so clear that every stone on its bottom was visible.” An older couple, Tiller and Sairy, live in the holler and are looking for new adventures, each of them hoping to set off on a trip. When they invite the “trouble twins,” Dallas and Florida, to join them, all of their lives take new turns.
ALA Notable Children’s Book
Book Sense Pick
School Library Journal Best Book
Family Fun Magazine Best New Book
California Young Reader Medal
Indiana’s Young Hoosier Book Award
Tennessee’s Volunteer State Book Award
New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
About six years ago I received a letter from my aunt in which she related a story about my father when he was young. She ended the story with “and that was when we lived in the holler.” Holler? I hadn’t known about the holler and was intrigued by the notion of my father and his many siblings and parents living in this place.
I began to imagine the place, and as I did so, I knew it would be a great setting for a story, but it was several years before I began to see who the characters might be who would live in this holler. I think that the older couple, Tiller and Sairy, evolved because I was thinking of my grandparents living in a holler, and this couple resembles my grandparents in some ways.
The children, Dallas and Florida, probably came to life because I’d been thinking of my father as a mischievous child (that was evident in the original story my aunt told) and his equally-mischievous siblings.
After I’d begun the story, I saw a real photo of my grandparents’ house in the holler. The house was but a tiny shack, rather decrepit looking, and the holler wasn’t as enchanting as the one I imagined. I’m glad I didn’t see the photo before I began the story!
The understone funds evolved in a rather strange way. Many years ago, a Russian friend of my sister and her husband was visiting them and became interested in a chipmunk that lived in their backyard, appearing and disappearing into a hole beneath a stone. The friend referred to the chipmunk as their “understone friend.” Somehow that stayed with me and became understone funds.
In the chapter “The God,” Tiller talks about how a woman who had visited recently had referred to him as “a god.” Tiller is obviously quite proud of this, but Sairy says, in her cool, ironic way, “And you believed her.” This is based on a story my sister told me about her husband. It seemed to fit Tiller and Sairy perfectly.