Short-listed for the 2010 Governor General's Award for Children's Literature, the 2010 Snow Willow Award and the 2011 CLA Young Adult Book Award
Born with Down syndrome, Ruby Jean Sharp comes from a time when being a developmentally disabled person could mean growing up behind locked doors and barred windows and being called names like "retard" and "moron." When Ruby Jean's caregiver and loving grandmother dies, her mother takes her to Woodlands School in New Westminster, British Columbia, and rarely visits.
As Ruby Jean herself says: "Can't say why they called it a school a school's a place you go for learnin an then after you get to go home. I never learnt much bout ledders and numbers, an I sure never got to go home."
It's here in an institution that opened in 1878 and was originally called the Provincial Lunatic Asylum that Ruby Jean learns to survive isolation, boredom, and every kind of abuse. Just when she can hardly remember if she's ever been happy, she learns a lesson about patience and perseverance from an old crow.
About the Author
Gina McMurchy-Barber was the recipient of the 2004 Governor General's Award for Excellence in Teaching Canadian History. She majored in archaeology at Simon Fraser University, studied orangutans in Borneo under Dr. Birute Galdikas, and led backpack tours to Asia and South America. Her first novel, Reading the Bones, was nominated for the Silver Birch Award and the Langley Book of the year Award. She lives in Surrey, British Columbia.
What People are Saying About This
"Ruby Jean’s story at Woodlands is terrible because it’s so true."
"Gina McMurchy-Barber has written a powerful novel."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
"Free as a Bird" takes the reader into a world few have seen. Gina McMurchy-Barber knows this world and has given us a realistic look into the lives of children with disabilities. It is also a censure of some of the institutions that care for these people. They are so vulnerable; the institutions need watch dogs. N.B. This book is not at all a grim or depressing read. The characters are inspiring and memorable.It does what the best of novels and theatre do for me: help me understand and have compassion for worlds I have never experienced.