Ruthie and the
(Not So)
Teeny Tiny Lie

Laura Rankin's
Ruthie and the (Not So) Teeny Tiny Lie

Children's book review by Steve Barancik

Ages 4-8

I'm pretty sure Ruthie is a little girl fox.

Of course, when a picture book features animals in place of children, it's a good sign that the book's message is meant to be universal. This book's certainly is.

Ruthie has told a lie. A (not so) teeny tiny lie. And she is starting to feel pretty bad about it.

She told it for a good reason. You see, she just found the camera. She thought it was no one's, which makes it hers, right? Oh, but then it turns to have been lost by another kid.

But see, Ruthie had gotten kind of used to the notion that it's hers. So when the other kid wants it back...

Ruthie rather automatically says it was hers. Always. "I got it for my birthday!"

Author/illustrator Laura Rankin captures this moment in a way that seems quite real. Ruthie seems more indignant than dishonest. It's hard for a child to think of something as her own, then to find out - and accept - that it's not.

Ruthie's journey from rage to remorse is a slow, sure slog, with no real surprises - usually a bad thing in a book. But Ruthie and the (Not So) Teeny Tiny Lie seems to serve a different purpose than most stories. Ruthie models conscience, and her journey is a moral one.

Recognizing your lie is only the first step you have to take, Rankin shows. The second is taking responsibility. Despite much apprehension, in the end, Ruthie confesses.

I'd recommend this story for younger children, as Ruthie's confession results in precisely no consequences. Ruthie's teacher accepts her admission without punishment or even disapproval, and her wronged classmate has precisely no residual anger.

This is a book that makes it seem easy to admit fault; parents should decide for themselves whether that message seems age-appropriate for their own child. It strikes me as a message apt only for the early years of moral training, when a young child might actually buy that honesty for its own sake is always worth it, that dishonesty need never even be a temptation.

Rankin depicts Ruthie and her menagerie of classmates as (approximately) first graders. (Picky point, but I would have preferred kindergarteners.) What's most striking about the illustrations is Rankin's ability to capture Ruthie's emotional journey in her expressions and, especially, her postures. Even a young child should be able to identify Ruthie's joy, fear, anger, remorse, and of course, anguish.

Think of Ruthie and the (Not So) Teeny Tiny Lie as a terrific early conversation starter on the importance of honesty.

Webmaster's note: Want to get started on dishonesty right away? My story, How Timbo Learned That Telling the Truth Really Does Work, is downloadable right from this site! Text only, it's a printable children's book that your child illustrates. That helps the message really hit home.

Read more of Steve's reviews.

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