THE BABBS SWITCH STORY by Darleen Bailey Beard


Age Range: 9 - 12
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Basing her story on a real tragedy in the town of Babbs Switch, Oklahoma, Beard enlivens and enlarges events by using 12-year-old Ruth Ann’s voice. Ruth Ann’s family runs the Mercantile and includes Daphne, who at 16 is strong of body, but has the mind of a small child. Daphne literally loves a kitten to death, and everyone is frightened when she plays with a neighbor’s baby. Hoping to avoid calling attention to themselves, Ruth Ann’s parents ask her to decline to sing the solo for the school’s Christmas Pageant. Relaying with humor the details of life at the time, Beard ably lays the groundwork for the horrifying number of deaths that occur in the disastrous fire on the snowy night of the celebration. Both families are frantic when Daphne and the baby are missing after the fire is over. Even though suffering from burns, Ruth Ann’s knowledge of her sister and the community is crucial. While no upbeat ending is possible, there is something to cheer about in the final resolution. Surprisingly lighthearted for such a sad story, Ruth Ann’s gutsy intensity creates a lively tone and an appealing character. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 10th, 2002
ISBN: 0-374-30475-0
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2002


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