Way Down Deep
This book takes place in the small town of Way Down, West Virginia. One morning, the town folk go out and see a little girl with bright red hair standing in the street. They ask her name and she answers, “Woobey!” They realize this means Ruby, and from then on her name is Ruby, with the name June added at the end. A young woman, Miss Arbutus, comes out of the hotel that she owns and says that she will take in the girl to live with her.
Ruby June grows up living in Miss Arbutus’ hotel, The Roost. They are many interesting people that stay at The Roost, whether they are permanent guests or guests passing through for a couple of nights. Ruby June does chores around the house and lives a wonderful life with Miss Arbutus and the people of the small town. However, it remains a mystery as to how Ruby June actually ended up in Way Down.
One day, a family named Reeder moves to Way Down. There are four boys and a girl, their father, and their grandfather who seems to be slowly losing his mind. Ruby June gets to know the two older boys. One night, she is at the Reeders’ house. Grandfather starts to talk about panthers and a little girl that had red hair that disappeared.
Ruby June is convinced that the old man is talking about her. She goes to Miss Arbutus, and the next day they talk to the sheriff. The police in Virginia are contacted, and Ruby June’s family is found. Her parents died a while back, but her uncle comes to pick her up.
Ruby June goes to meet her grandmother and to stay with her for a few days. Her grandmother is her legal guardian as both of her parents are dead. Ruby June’s grandmother is a mean woman, ordering Ruby June around the house and demanding things of her. Finally, Ruby June decides that she must leave. It did not matter that Ruby had finally found her family; she cannot handle her grandmother anymore. She begins to make her way down the mountain. Her grandmother runs after her, telling her that she will be kind and she will now order her around anymore. Ruby June takes her grandmother back to the house, and they talk and Ruby sees that her grandmother really is a kind person. Ruby still wants to return to The Roost, and her grandmother begs Ruby to take her with her.
Meanwhile, back in Way Down, Miss Arbutus misses Ruby terribly. One day, she finally invites the sheriff over to The Roost to talk about Ruby June. She tells him about a dream that she had one night, in which she heard a child crying. She searched and searched and finally found the child. She had red hair. She was sleeping on a porch with her cousins and her cheeks were still tear-streaked from crying over her hurt feelings. Miss Arbutus knew that she must rescue this child and take her home and that she would not receive the kind of love she needed in this place. That is how Ruby June got to Way Down.
Ruby June asked her uncle to take her back to Way Down. There was a great welcome for Ruby June when she finally got home. She had so much to tell everyone, especially Miss Arbutus. She also asked Miss Arbutus is her grandmother could come and live with them at The Roost. Of course Miss Arbutus said it was all right.
Ruby June was so happy. Not only was she back home, but she finally she where she had come from and how she had ended up in Way Down. This is such a nice story of finding out about oneself. Ruby found out her history, but she also found out a lot about her spirit and the spirits of the people she loved. Ruby June knew what it meant to be kind and neighborly, and to be truly unconditionally loved. Through Ruby June’s life, others were able to experience that kindness and that love. I would use this book in my classroom to teach these lessons.- JH