Review: The Wall and the Wing by Laura Ruby

Phyl CampbellStarred Page By Phyl Campbell, 21st Jul 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/23egngcj/
Posted in Wikinut>Reviews>Books>Children's Books

It happens once every 100 years. A person is born who can become invisible. A Wall. But in Laura Ruby's book, The Wall and the Wing, the sometimes-invisible orphan girl (name Gurl) thinks she is anything but special. But she finds a cat and turns truly invisible for the first time, and that's when the adventures begin.

Children's Fantasy, Reading, & Writing

I love to read children's fantasy. A well written book leaves me with the impression of loving it without being so predictable that I remember every nuance. And that's good. Unlikely heroes are good. And friends in disguise are even better. I really like them.

Because I am working on A Muse Meant, I am re-reading some of my favorite children's and YA fantasies to make sure that none of the magic I am conjuring can in any way be thought stolen from my favorite reads. So I'm doing research. Very, very pleasant research.

You will hear many writers say that good writers are good readers, and I find that to be true. Good readers not only have a better command of their writing language than non-readers, but every book presents new ideas and new variations for new characters, plots, and resolutions. It is often said that there are no original ideas; only the way that the writer or storyteller shares those ideas with an audience may be considered unique. Boiled down to main ideas and major players, that may be true. However, the more a person reads and imagines, the more possible it is to use so many variations on ideas that the result is truly original. As a result, I celebrate weirdness, and hope you will, too.

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Author Laura Ruby

It's a very cool thing to read a book and feel like you and the author would make good friends. Most authors would find themselves connecting with Ruby's main character, a creepy girl who is so ordinary she is invisible. That's not me. However, if Ruby thinks of herself as that main character, I hope she would see in me qualities of the people who help the girl realize how special she is.

In her bio, Ruby says she used to ask questions like "If everyone in the world were either a jerk or a creep, which one would you be?" and "Would you rather have the power of invisibility or the ability to fly?"

Laura Ruby is definitely a writer who celebrates weirdness and makes sure jerks get their comeuppance. Oh, that everyone in the world celebrated and strove for the same things!

The Wall and The Wing

I first read The Wall and the Wing nearly but not quite a decade ago (the book was first published in 2006). Perhaps it caught my eye on the NEW BOOKS shelf of my public library. However it happened, I am so glad that I found Laura Ruby's book.

The main character, Gurl, is an orphan in an orphanage with a matron that makes Miss Hannigan (Annie) or Miss Hattie (Despicable Me) look like Mary Poppins.

(Scenes from Annie with Carol Burnett and Kathy Bates as Miss Hannigan)

Mrs. Terwiliger makes all the classes revolve around raising money for the orphanage -- money that she then steals to spend on plastic surgery for herself. When Mrs. Terwiliger realizes that Gurl can turn invisible, she forces her to steal expensive clothes, shoes, scarves, food, and other items. She also uses mechanical monkeys to steal the children's secrets -- even their identities. The worst thing she steals is their hope. Hopelessness is the reason the orphans can't fly.

Flying

"Can't fly?" You ask. That's correct. Most of the people in this book CAN fly -- but the orphans can't. In fact, there's even a flying competition -- something like a flying marathon. Ruby makes this magical distinction all the more charming by creating companies that make flying contraptions, heroes that fly, and flight inspired witticisms. The characters study various kinds of birds, more typically have birds as pets, and will call the police on cats (bird-killers) who aren't on proper leashes. So when Gurl finds a cat, which she names Noodle, she must keep it hidden. This is reminiscent of Orphan Annie and her stray dog Sandy. Though Noodle is nowhere near as ordinary as Annie's Sandy, both pets are priceless to the girls who find and keep them.

Gangsters

Who doesn't like a story with gangsters? Gangsters in The Wall and the Wing are the ones originally responsible for kidnapping Gurl. They lose her when she turns invisible. She is found by a stranger and dropped off at the orphanage.

One of the gangsters ultimately becomes Gurl's best friend, helping her escape and find her way home. There's also the gangster who can grotesquely unzip his face. Definitely not something to miss.

Personal Assistants

Jules is one of my favorite characters in this book. Laura Ruby must have a really special experience with personal assistants, because the way she uses Jules to push scenes forward and give Gurl means of escape when all seems lost is nothing short of priceless magic. Jules is a very minor character -- Gurl at one point refers to him as a Fairy Godmother. Though he objects to that classification and his help is much more worldly than magical, the description is apt. Like Cinderella's Fairy Godmother, who pops in just a few times and just in the nick of time, Jules is a very minor, but very important, character.

According to Laura Ruby's website, The Wall and the Wing has been optioned for "a major animated feature by Laika Studios." If that happens, I hope they get Harvey Fierstein to do the voiceover of Jules. See what I mean? He'd be perfect:

(Harvey Fierstein in Mrs. Doubtfire; the transformation scene)

The immensely talented Harvey Fierstein, mixed with a littleTim Gunn, was the Jules I had in my head while reading.

Review

So without giving away any spoilers, The Wall and the Wing, also published as The Invisible Girl, is a delightful magical adventure. The invisible Gurl makes friends and finally finds where she belongs. Jerks like the orphanage matron and the gangsters get their comeuppance. And Gurl's best friend gets his lifelong dream of flying. Characters are witty and well developed. Scenes are fully detailed and provide great scope for the imagination. The magic "rules" are consistent and work well in the story. It is easy to see why Ruby's book has won numerous awards and praise from literary critics -- and why I love it.

Image Credits

Fantasy in Children's Lit image is courtesy MorgueFile.

Laura Ruby's photo is courtesy of her website, www.lauraruby.com.

Book Cover -- I took the book cover photo, cover was designed by R. Hult with art by Brandon Dorman.

Flying image is courtesy Morguefile.

Gangster image is courtesy MorgueFile.

Harvey Fierstein (Mrs. Doubtfire image) credit goes to: http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=harvey+fierstein+with+Robin+Williams+Mrs.+Doubtfire&FORM=HDRSC2#view=detail&id=8C3E3AA93A36EB2F8F991866FBD49A321C138CB3&selectedIndex=6

Invisible Girl image is an alternate title and cover courtesy Goodreads.

The City Cat photo is courtesy of MorgueFile.

Tags

Books, Celebrate Weirdness, Fantasy, Invisibility, Invisible, Laura Ruby, People Can Fly, Phyl Campbell, Thief

Meet the author

author avatar Phyl Campbell
I am "Author, Mother, Dreamer." I am also teacher, friend, Dr. Pepper addict, night-owl. Visit my website -- phylcampbell.com -- or the "Phyl Campbell Author Page" on Facebook.

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Comments

author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
21st Jul 2014 (#)

A comprehensive review, thanks Phyl. One needs real imagination to conjure these books to grip children's attention to the end. It is a talent and a gift to make these best sellers - siva

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author avatar Janette Kirchner
21st Jul 2014 (#)

Going to have to check the book out. These days most of my reading is done with my children.

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
21st Jul 2014 (#)

Thanks, Siva. Janette, I think your kids would like it.

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author avatar snerfu
22nd Jul 2014 (#)

I know cats have magic powers, and they have to use them to defeat gangsta-s. One thing though -- never pull a cat's tail. It might change into a witch. Nice review Phyl.

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
22nd Jul 2014 (#)

Thanks, Snerfu!

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
23rd Jul 2014 (#)

yes a wonder filled review and since I just love fantasy thanks for sharing some I can get into...blessings...

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
24th Jul 2014 (#)

Thanks, dear!

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author avatar Kingwell
26th Jul 2014 (#)

Good review. I love fantasy.

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
27th Jul 2014 (#)

Thanks, Kingwell!

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author avatar Etc.
4th Aug 2014 (#)

Writers love reading, or most do, and most should--according, at least, to Stephen King. At any rate you do, and I do. I, too, am a writer of fantasy fiction.

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
5th Aug 2014 (#)

Wonderful to meet you, Ms. Mona. I look forward to getting to know you (and perhaps your books as well) through your Wikinut articles. Welcome, welcome!

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author avatar n.c.radomes
9th Aug 2014 (#)

Thanks so much for sharing this review. Just like others, fantasies are food for thought. Keep up!

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
9th Aug 2014 (#)

Thanks, n.c.

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