'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Thursday 15 March 2018

Review: Ruben

Ruben is the latest book from the talented Bruce Whatley, and it's beautifully artistic.

An unusual story with stunning, black and white pencil illustrations, Ruben seems somewhat otherworldly, and yet not.

It's set in what appears to be the future, a place where a young boy lives and survives alone.

Ruben's life seems bleak. He has surrounded himself with items that mean something to him, and records his life in a journal he constructed from bits and pieces.

Ruben is a maker, an innovator, because he has to be. There's no other way for him to live. He's independent, a loner. In fact, there appear to be few other people in his world.

 His daily routine is repetitive and includes exploratory expeditions into Block City, where he keeps to the shadows for safety.

As he traverses derelict buildings, Ruben salvages what he can, but there is little left now. And few people, although one day he meets a young girl named Koji.

They observe and evade the Controllers, Listeners, Bowler Men and Sweepers whose presence and activity is rather menacing (in some ways they made me think of the Cybermen and Daleks in Dr Who).

The end of Ruben may just be the beginning, as Ruben -- and Koji -- take a courageous step into the unknown.

There are multiple layers to Ruben's story, which is told over almost 100 pages, and it will tell a different story, mean something different, to each person who reads it.

Ruben is a picture book, but is definitely for older readers. The book itself is high quality with a sturdy hard cover and embossed title.

If you'd like to know a bit more about the work that went into it, Bruce Whatley has shared some of the process used to create Ruben on his website. It was a process where he took sketches, photographs, and CGI to make a virtual world which was used when drawing the final illustrations.

Ruben is certainly as it is described in the promotional material, 'a triumph of Bruce Whatley’s imaginative and technical skills.'

An extraordinary book that should find a place, and generate conversation, in homes and classrooms everywhere.

Teachers' notes are available for Ruben on the Scholastic website.

Title: Ruben
Author: Bruce Whatley
Illustrator: Bruce Whatley
Publisher: Scholastic Australia, $29.99
Publication Date: 2017
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781743810354
For ages: 8+
Type: Picture Book