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Winner of an
Toy Portfolio
Gold Award
Short-listed for the
Word’s Out Picture
Book Prize 2004
& the
California Young Reader
Medal 2006
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This Way Ruby!
and Go For It, Ruby!
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Rebecca Harry
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Illustrated by Rebecca Harry

Previously published in the US as Ruby, In Her Own Time


She is the littlest of five ducklings.
She is the last to eat and the last to swim.
Father Duck worries that Ruby won't catch up.
But Mother Duck knows that Ruby will flourish
... in her own time.

"A warm family saga expertly told and beautifully illustrated."

Kathryn Ross, THE SCOTSMAN

"A warm-hearted and reassuring story."

Julia Eccleshare, THE GUARDIAN


UK Print-On-Demand Paperback
ISBN-10: 183811050X • ISBN-13: 978-1838110505
(Originally published in the UK by Macmillan Children's Books)


US Hardcover ISBN-10: 0439579155 •ISBN-13: 9780439579155

US Paperback ISBN-10: 0439862787• ISBN-13: 9780439862783

but US buyers can order the UK edition using
the Amazon sales link below.


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find your local bookshop Buy this book at amazon UK Buy at amazon US


Spread 1 Spread 2

Authors are often asked where they get the ideas for their stories. In my case, I often come up with what I consider to be a good title and then I try to think of a story that will go with it. And that is how this story came about.

We have a boating lake near our house that I occasionally jog around in the mornings. At the time that this story was written, there was a swan's nest among the reeds at one end of the lake and that gave me the idea for the book's title "Once Upon a Time, Upon a Nest" (the book was retitled for the US and the UK paperback editions). I substituted ducks for swans and the story grew from there.

Although the book is centred on Ruby, the smallest of five ducklings, the only speaking characters are her parents, so we see much of the story from their point of view. Father Duck is anxious about Ruby who is small and slow to develop compared with her four larger siblings. But Mother Duck reassures him that Ruby will flourish – "in her own time."

I suspect that many parents have had similar anxieties about their child's development. So, while this book is principally for children, I hope that the story's reassuring message will strike a chord with parents as well. Any parent needing additional reassurance might like to know that even the greatest of achievers can have a slow start. In a biography written by Einstein's sister, Maja, she informs us that her brother "developed slowly in childhood, and he had such difficulty with language that those around him feared he would never learn to speak."*

I can remember feeling unusually satisfied with the story when I'd finished it. Although the text was much shorter and the plot was far simpler than most of my picture books, it felt right and I imagined that I would have little trouble getting it published. However this was not the case. The first publisher I showed it to turned it down on the basis that, although it had a nice feel, the plot was far too simple and "would need too many changes made to it before it would begin to work". Other publishers misinterpreted it as a re-telling of the "Ugly Ducking" and when I explained that it wasn't, suggested that I should re-write it as such, which I was unwilling to do. Almost two years later, having been turned down by a dozen other publishers, Macmillan enthusiastically accepted the story. And - despite the first publisher's comments - the only change they asked me to make was to the names of Ruby's brothers, who were originally called Ronald and Robert.

It took several months to find a suitable illustrator. There are only seven characters in the story and all of them are ducks, five of which needed to be shown at various stages of development, from duckling through to adult. So we needed someone who could draw ducks that would be recognisable as individual characters. This is not as simple as it may sound and several illustrators were considered before settling upon Rebecca Harry. Rebecca's characters are instantly appealing, and I think that her illustrations have a warmth and simplicity that compliments the text perfectly.

I have commented elsewhere on this site that a good illustrator will extend the story with their illustrations and this book provides another excellent example. Although the text stated that Ruby returns to her parents at the end of the story, it was Rebecca's idea to show Ruby with a young family of her own on the final spread. This brings the story full circle and makes the conclusion far more satisfying than it might otherwise have been.

* It's ironic then that one of the most popular brands of infant development products goes by the name of "Baby Einstein"!

This book is for

Once Upon A Time, Upon a Nest by Jonathan Emmett and Rebecca Harry is a warm, family saga expertly told and beautifully illustrated, with some of the most endearing ducks ever to waddle across the pages of a picture book. Little Ruby is a bit slower at hatching, eating and swimming than her siblings and Father duck is worried about her progress, but Mother knows she will flourish ‘in her own time’ and, of course, she's right. It's sweet, but not sickly, and the youngest members of the family will love this comforting story.

Kathryn Ross, THE SCOTSMAN

Messages about doing things in your own time are never wasted, particularly for today's over-achieving pre-schoolers (and their parents) ... Soft-focus fluffy-duckling illustrations complement this warm-hearted and reassuring story.

Julia Eccleshare, THE GUARDIAN

The sweet, comforting tone of Emmett's text will be as welcome as a favorite blanket at bedtime ... Harry's pastel illustrations, featuring fuzzy line-edges and warm, inviting tones, capture the brightness of a sunny day at the pond. And her fluffy ducklings are irresistible, sporting downy yellow feathers and wide orange beaks.


Painterly texture expressively applied ensures that every spread in this engaging picture book is full of movement and life and every slight curve of a beak or inclination of a neck convey the emotions of Father and Mother Duck as they worry about Ruby, the last hatched and smallest of their brood ... Harry's debut picture book artwork is an assured and confident interpretation of Emmett's warmly sensitive text.

Rosemary Stones, BOOKS FOR KEEPS

Soft-edged forms and pastels create characters that mirror the lyrical language and calm tone of the story ... Children will love the repetition and simple language. Adults will appreciate the reassuring and timeless message of honoring one's own rhythm in growing up. This message is not new, yet has a freshness and life all its own.


The sweetly warm family dynamics are displayed in boldly stroked, soft-focus pictures rendered in sunny nursery colors - yellow, pink, powder blue, and sunset orange. A winning read, with characters that are very close to huggable.

Stephanie Zvirin, BOOKLIST

A wonderful parable for children who might not be achieving what is expected of them on time, Jonathan Emmett delivers a tale that lets kids know it's all right if it takes a little longer for someone to learn things than it takes others. Rebecca Harry's soft illustrations capture the reader's attention as we watch the baby ducklings mature.

Howard Price, THE TRADES

This charming book celebrates an individual's determination and sense of self. The pacing of the rhythmic text is ideal for family storytimes that include youngsters of varying ages. Harry's soft, pastel paintings are gentle and appealing. They are slightly textured, suggesting the look of feathers, nests, and river reeds ... Astute readers will recognize her parents' strength as they provide the necessary time and space for her to accomplish her goals.


There is a wonderful lesson about growth and development, as all children do not learn at the same time. Wonderful illustrations with soft and breezy colors beautifully capture the engaging duck family. The heart-warming story is sure to appeal to young children and educators will discover a valuable lesson to share.


The narrative appears simple and is gently told, yet it shares with all the best stories the fact that it has a real problem and a modern worry at its heart ... A lovely parable of acceptance in these competitive times.


Soft pastel shades and outlines give a misty quality to the illustrations which have a kind of tactile quality ... The telling of the story and the page layout are such that learner readers might well be able to enjoy reading the story themselves once it has been shared with them. A real winner this: Ruby should certainly find many new friends among early years listeners.

Jill Bennett, WORDPOOL

This has gorgeous illustrations and the story is simple enough for younger children with possibly a message for all us parents in there too. I think this would make a lovely alternative to chocolate this Easter.


A gentle, loving story which would be a great readaloud for preschoolers ... Glowing colours of pink, orange, green and blue are used in a soft style that conveys an impression of warmth and security.

Lorraine Orman, STORY-GO-ROUND

Young readers tag along with little Ruby the duck who shows them that they, too, in their own time will learn how to do the things their brothers, sisters, or peers can do ... [a] simple yet moving story about growing up.




Hardcover ISBN
Paperback ISBN
BUY at Amazon
Hi havina una vegada un nui
Lluïsa Moreno Llort
Editorial Juventud
Beijing Yunaliu Classic Culture Ltd
(Part of a three book set of the first three Ruby books)
3 Book Set
Het kleinste eendje
Ineke Ris
C. de Vries-Brouwers
Il était une fois un nid
Sophie Léger
Gross werd ich von ganz allein
Jantina Perkins
Ravensburger Buchverlag
Ruby Bisa Terbang
Rien Chaerani
little K
때가 되면 너도 날수 있단다
Spanish (Castilian)
Erase una vez un nido
Élodie Bourgois y Teresa Farran
Editorial Juventud