Ruby Goldberg's Bright Idea

illus. by Vanessa Brantley Newton. 144p. S. & S./Little Simon. Apr. 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781442480278; ebk. $9.78. ISBN 9781442480315.
Gr 3–5—Ten-year-old Ruby, invention queen, is named after the famous Rube Goldberg who made amazingly complicated machines that do really simple things. This year, Ruby wants nothing more than to get first place in the science fair. She is faced with a dilemma when she realizes she hasn't got an idea good enough to win, and, when she finally thinks of one, she needs the help of her worst enemy to get it done. Soon, all of Ruby's time is focused on her super secret invention while she shuts out everyone—from her grandfather to her best friend. Ruby is a fun character with a great heart. She learns a lesson about priorities and about being a good friend. The tale includes some history on the famous Goldberg's life and inventions. This story, complemented by illustrations throughout, is great for kids interested in science.—Terry Ann Lawler, Burton Barr Library, Phoenix, AZ
As the annual science fair approaches, ten-year-old Ruby Goldberg sets her sights on finally winning the gold medal, which has gone to her rival, Dominic, two years running. Ruby, a highly confident and competitive young scientist, decides to construct a Rube Goldberg machine (a tribute to her namesake) that fetches slippers and retrieves the newspaper (in memory of her grandfather's beloved dog). When Dominic shows an interest in her project, she is immediately suspicious: "Underneath [his] overgrown bangs lurked a cunning, spying, ruthless science-project-stealer who would stop at nothing to win." Ruby's paranoia turns out to be unfounded, and eventually the two combine their ideas. As Ruby learns the value of teamwork, she also discovers that her relentless passion for science, when taken to the extreme, tends to alienate the people she cares for most: "Ideas had a way of rushing into my brain and filling it up so full that there was barely room left to focus on anything else." At times the behavior lessons threaten to overtake the story, but Ruby's growing pains feel consistently authentic. Newton's black-and-white illustrations capture the playful energy of the narrative, with the actual diagram of the finished machine paling in comparison with its inspiration but clear enough for the purposes of the story. shara l. hardeson

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