Welcome to Day 3 of the 6th Annual March MG Madness, featuring author Jenna Zark and her book,
The Beat On Ruby's Street.
The Beat On Ruby’s Street
by Jenna Zark
The last thing eleven-year-old Ruby Tabeata expected to happen on her way to a Jack Kerouac reading was to be hauled to the police station.
It’s 1958 and Ruby is the opposite of a 1950s stereotype: fierce, funny and strong willed, she is only just starting to chart her course in a family of Beat Generation artists in Greenwich Village. Ruby dreams of meeting famous poets while becoming one herself; instead, she’s accused of trying to steal fruit from a local vendor and is forced to live in a children’s home. As Ruby struggles to return to family and friends, she learns her only choice is to follow her heart.
Join Ruby’s journey as she finds unexpected friendships, the courage to rebel against unjust authority and the healing power of art in this inspiring middle-grade novel by Jenna Zark.
Q1. What three words best describe your book, The Beat on Ruby’s Street?
Intense. Funny. Precarious.
Q2. Grab a copy of The Beat on Ruby’s Street and answer the following:
My favorite chapter happens when the main character/narrator Ruby reunites with her mother and initially, is very glad to see her. Slowly, Ruby senses that something is very, very wrong—but can’t put her finger on it.
The page I like best is 133 (in the paperback edition) in my favorite chapter. Ruby and her mom are trying to get home to Greenwich Village in New York City. Ruby’s mother flags down a cab. When Ruby climbs inside, she thinks of a favorite poem that describes two people having the same thoughts, “bleak and blue and sad eyed.” She doesn’t understand why this poem comes into her head—but it sets the tone for the days to come, though Ruby doesn’t yet know it.
As the cab winds its way toward the Village and over the Brooklyn Bridge, Ruby and her mother begin holding hands and talking. For the first time in a long while, Ruby is really happy because she and her mother are starting to connect—which hasn’t happened since Ruby was little.
Just a page or two later, the conversation takes a bad turn and Ruby’s mother withdraws her hand. The bond between them seems to shrink as well.
Throughout most of the book except the chapters when Ruby is forced to be in a children’s home, the book is set in Greenwich Village in New York. The Beat on Ruby’s Street occurs in 1958, when Beat Generation poets ruled supreme in the Village, and the sights, sounds and smells of this beautiful neighborhood were a bohemian paradise.
Flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentences teaser:
“I jump up and start kicking at the door even though I know it won’t do any good. I start yelling, too; I can’t help it. Then I stop.”
Q3. Who are your favorite middle-grade hero and heroine? What is your favorite middle-grade book?
My favorite middle-grade heroine is Anne Frank and my favorite middle grade book is her diary, now known as the Diary of a Young Girl. I read it first when I was ten and many of the words have stayed with me; Anne’s keen eye and her extraordinary grasp of the times she lived in made a lasting impression. My favorite middle-grade hero would be Hugo in The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Hugo is also living through a tumultuous time, which he navigates with grace and pluck. He is a child but must grow up quickly—much as Anne Frank had to do.
Q4. Why do you think middle-grade lit is so important?
Middle grade fiction, at its best, brings us into the lives of young people on the cusp of adulthood. It shows us how the world looks to them and asks us to imagine ourselves as we were and as we might have been. The stories of ten and eleven-year-olds can transcend the actual ages of a book’s characters and reflect the emotional lives of adults. Yet, because adults learn to hide their emotions, even from themselves, middle grade novels allow us to experience things more intensely—and often present a more honest view of life and the world.
Q5. If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by The Beat on Ruby’s Street, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?
I would create a cupcake made of espresso beans and dark chocolate. I’d call it the “Beat Generation” and it would taste sweet and a little bitter all at once. It would not have icing (that wouldn’t be cool) but way in the center, when you got there, would be three or four chocolate espresso beans. They would transmit a lightning-bolt of energy and creativity to the person eating them. A few minutes after you finished this cupcake, you’d be inspired to write a poem.
Jenna Zark is a columnist, lyricist, playwright, and novelist. Her play A Body of Water was published by Dramatists Play Service and produced regionally after its debut at Circle Repertory Company in New York. Other plays were produced in the Twin Cities, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and St. Louis. As a former staff writer at Scholastic Choices magazine, Zark wrote extensively for middle school and junior high students. Columns, poetry, essays, and articles have been published in TC Jewfolk, Stoneboat literary magazine, Minnesota Bride and numerous other publications. Zark is also a member of a lyricist’s collective in the Twin Cities that performs at local cabarets. She’s still trying to figure out if it’s harder to write a play, a novel, or a song. To share your thoughts on that or to learn more, please visit jennazark.com.
Win 1 of 5 ebook copies of
The Beat On Ruby's Street!
Jenna Zark has generously offered five (5) ecopies for five winners.
-ends 4/5 17
-winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes