MIDDLE GRADE BOOK REVIEW: The Center of Everything by Linda Urban

by Linda Urban
Harcourt Children's Books, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-547-76348-4
Middle Grade Contemporary
Grades 3-6
Reviewed from purchased copy.


For Ruby Pepperdine, the “center of everything” is on the rooftop of Pepperdine Motors in her donut-obsessed town of Bunning, New Hampshire, stargazing from the circle of her grandmother Gigi’s hug.  That’s how everything is supposed to be—until Ruby messes up and things spin out of control. But she has one last hope. It all depends on what happens on Bunning Day, when the entire town will hear Ruby read her winning essay. And it depends on her twelfth birthday wish—unless she messes that up too. Can Ruby’s wish set everything straight in her topsy-turvy world?


I think one of the most fascinating things about this book is how the author slipped back and forth between the past and present so easily.  She shows us how Ruby is feeling in the present and then slowly goes back and shows us how she got to that point.  I did get confused once in a while flipping back and forth between the past and present but not enough to really detract from my enjoyment of the book.

I also really liked the theme.  There is much for the reader to ponder.  Ruby wants her 'wish' to come true so badly. I think most of us can relate to that. I know I have plenty of wishes myself.  But I was surprised at what her wish really ended up being. I thought I knew what she wished for fairly early in the book, but it turns out I wasn't quite right.  That was a nice twist.  I could also easily relate to Ruby's desire to do what she's 'supposed to' and her confusion over what 'supposed to' really was.  Her confusion leads to her problems with her friends and she's left really wanting to know if there really is such a thing as fate or destiny or if it all comes down to the choices we make.  This is a great theme not only for kids but also for adults, very thoughtful.

I found Ruby, Lucy, and Nero very sympathetic characters as each is very human with strengths and weaknesses.  They felt very real. Lucy with her struggles to learn her lines for the play she is in is the dramatic, loud one, who feels very hurt when Ruby doesn't share her wish right away.  Nero works with his father in a donut shop, but doesn't really want to, and loves to ask unusual questions, and he helps Ruby with some of her questions. And Ruby, hurting over the loss of her beloved grandmother, and confused as to how her family has been able to move on so easily.

This book would make a great read-a-loud in a classroom or for a family or school to read together. I feel comfortable in recommending it highly.  Definitely a Newbery contender.


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