Getting to Know Ruben Plotnick

Written by Roz Rosenbluth
Illustrated by Maurie J. Manning

What do you get when you put together the coolest kid in class, an unpredictable live-in grandmother, and a caring but anxious grandson? Disaster?

No. You get to know Ruben Plotnick.

David is worried about how zany Ruben Plotnick will react when he meets Grandma Rosie, who often says and does unexpected things. Will Ruben make fun of her to their classmates? Will he imitate her whispery voice? What will he do if Grandma Rosie suddenly wants to dance?

This heartwarming story of senility and school-age embarrassment reveals the importance of looking beneath the surface to really get to know someone.

 

Awards

  • New York Library Association Book of the Season, winter 2006
  • Alabama Emphasis on Reading Award list, 2007-8
  • Arizona Grand Canyon Award list, 2007-8
  • Georgia Children’s Storybook Award list, 2007-8
  • New York State Reading Association Charlotte Award list, 2007-8

Reviews

From School Library Journal
An engaging story about family, friendship, and the challenges of dementia. Ruben Plotnick is the cool kid everyone at school wants to know. He’s funny and a little wacky (“He sits on the windowsill in class and balances books on his head while he reads”). But he always knows the right answers. He’s smart. For some unexplained reason, he decides to befriend David, asking to go to his house to do schoolwork. David is thrilled-and worried. His Grandma Rosie has become so unpredictable. Will she do something to embarrass him? What will The Plotnick think? David need not have worried. The Plotnick proves himself to be much more than a smart clown. He has grace and he has heart. He relates immediately to someone who dances to her own beat, displaying maturity and confidence far beyond his age. And he shows David how to be compassionate and remain true to himself. The digital illustrations add amusing background details to keep the story light. Although the plot is awkward at the beginning, the story is charming and has a very sweet conclusion. This is an excellent choice for a group read-aloud or to help a child deal with fears of family embarrassment. – Mary Hazelton

From Children’s Literature
Ruben Plotnick is the most popular boy at school. Known for various quirky acts at school creating a peanut butter mustache under his nose at lunch, balancing a book on his head when he reads in class Ruben is someone with whom his classmates want to connect. When Ruben befriends the narrator, David, he is very excited, especially when Ruben wants to come to his house for a visit. But he is also a bit alarmed at the idea of Ruben meeting his Grandma Rosie–who suffers from the onset of Alzheimer’s–if she is in one of her “moods.” Grandma Rosie could easily begin a fight with her deceased husband, Nate, while playing a game of checkers or insist that Nate waltz with her, which typically means that the nearest child becomes her partner. The visit with Ruben starts well, but when Grandma wants to waltz, David is sure the friendship is over. But Ruben surprises him, and earns a place in the heart of Grandma Rosie when he does his best to “be Nate.” This is a truly delightful story that deals with the realities of aging and Alzheimer’s with sensitivity and humor. I would definitely recommend this book as a must have in school libraries. – Jean Boreen, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Department Chair, English Education, Northern Arizona University

also from Children’s Literature
What is a child to do when they are embarrassed about a grandmother that is forgetful and confuses your friend with her deceased husband? If you are David, hopefully you learn acceptance in this cross-generational poignant story. It all begins with Ruben Plotnick, class clown, wanting to come over to David’s home to do homework. Despite David’s trepidations, Grandma Rosie waltzes with Ruben in the kitchen, even though she believes she is dancing with her deceased husband Nate. David worries that Ruben will make fun or mimic Grandma’s voice or dancing afterward at school, but he does not. After Ruben’s visit and dance, Grandma Rosie requests that others waltz with her, including the pet schnauzer. David not only learns a lesson about acceptance, love, and friendship, but of loving those family members suffering from senility. This picture book does a wonderful job conveying children’s emotions, and how to deal with the uncertainty of peers knowing what family life at home might be with an elderly grandparent. – Rosa Roberts

and still another from Children’s Literature
David is thrilled when Ruben Plotnick, “the coolest kid in my class,” asks to come to his house to do homework together. But he is also concerned about what Ruben will think of his Grandma Rosie, who lives with him. She is forgetful, sometimes withdrawn. But she also sings beautifully, bakes great cookies, plays a mean game of checkers, and loves to waltz. Ruben surprises him, first by joining in grandma’s waltz, then by not making fun of him and his grandma in school as he feared he would. Grandma Rosie, the center of most scenes, is envisioned by Manning with digital pencil, watercolor, and chalk as brim-full of vitality. There is an elegance to her hands and a youthful spirit to her gray pony tail. When she waltzes we can feel her joyous memories of her past. The kids are just supporting characters, although “The Plotnick” is quite a cut-up. Readers can learn more about living with the elderly, along with the lesson of not prejudging people, through David’s story. -Kenneth and Sylvia Marantz, authors of eight books on the art of picture books.

From Simms Taback, Caldecott Medalist, 2000
All of us should get to know Roz Rosenbluth’s Getting To Know Ruben Plotnick with illustrations by Maurie Manning. This is a story about real family values, compassion for others and how kids are often smarter than we think. Hats off to “Ruben Plotnick”!

From Julie Vivas, award-winning illustrator
Thank you for sending Ruben Plotnick. I enjoyed it very much. The voice of the narrator worked so well for me. …The illustrations of the characters fit comfortably with the words,  particularly Grandma Rosie’s wonderful dance poses. Congratulations to Roz Rosenbluth,  Maurie Manning, and Flashlight for making it all come together so well. I hope it is enjoyed by many.

From GRAND magazine
This is a tender storybook…that manages to touch on popularity, peer pressure and senility without any preaching whatsoever… Every  character expands beyond stereotype in a way that will help kids cope with their own concerns about being less than perfect.

From Dr. Laura Schlessinger, September 26, 2005, on the Dr. Laura Show
As we do each week on this day and this hour I suggest some book that would be good for you to read. Either chock full of information or enthralling or as this one is, so touching and great for your kids. This is a kids’ book, written by Roz Rosenbluth and illustrated by Maurie Manning, and it’s called Getting to Know Ruben Plotnick. This is a terrific book. Really, a terrific book. This is a book about David’s grandma who is getting senile with Alzheimer’s. No, it is not a morbid, how-do-you-deal-with-grandma-with-Alzheimer’s kind of book at all. This is the cutest book.

From OC Family
Have you had a chance to check out my February book reviews yet? If you haven’t – or even if you have – I want to take some time to direct you to two of the books I reviewed on the Web for this month’s issue of OC Family. They’re all about love – just like the four between the front and back covers of the February issue. But I really wanted to draw your attention to these two selections because they are about a different kind of love. These books don’t just talk about hugs, kisses and Valentine’s Day – or the color pink. They broach the topic of love in a completely different form – one that I think kids serve to gain a lot from….Or, check out Getting to Know Ruben Plotnick, which follows a young boy who is a bit embarrassed about his aging grandmother and how his new – super cool, I might add – friend might think of her. This one is definitely a huge subject for little ones, who often don’t understand what’s happening to their grandparents as they age. And of course, it’s a book ultimately about love. David, the narrator, must learn to accept his grandmother’s quirky behavior – no matter what Ruben thinks. – Kristen Schott, OC Family

From BayViews, the review journal of the Association of Children’s Librarians
David’s Grandma Rosie has Alzheimer’s. She hums, she talks to her dead husband, and when she says “Nate, let’s waltz!” whoever is there has to dance with her.  David loves her, but he is bringing home Rubin Plotnick – “The Plotnik” – the very coolest kid in the whole school.  Will Rubin make fun of Grandma’s ways in school the next day?  David is amazed, and greatly relieved, to find that The Plotnik isn’t just cool and goofy, he’s a really nice person.  Avoiding easy labeling and getting to know the real person seems to be the theme here, and it’s a good one. Many children will relate to the dilemma of both loving and being embarrassed by an eccentric family member, just as many children might discover that beneath the surface of a joking cool dude could be a truly good friend.  Illustrations are bright, realistic, and upbeat, showing children of many ethnic groups.  The narrator and his family appear to be Latino. –Marian Drabkin, Oakland Public Library

From the U.S. National Institute of Health’s National Institute on Aging’s Connections newsletter
A children’s hardcover book for ages 5-9, Getting to Know Ruben Plotnick is about a boy named David whose “Grandma Rosie” has dementia. Sometimes, David’s Grandma forgets his name and talks to her husband who died years ago. When the most popular kid in school—Ruben Plotnick, the title character—comes to David’s house to play, David worries that his Grandma Rosie’s antics will embarrass him, particularly when she is known for waltzing spontaneously. Will Ruben make fun of her behavior and tell the rest of the school? Will David end up embarrassed in front of his playmates? This sensitive and clever story deals with school-age embarrassment and what dementia looks like from a child’s perspective. It teaches young children not to judge a book by its cover and has a few surprises at the end. All 15 pages of this book are well-illustrated by Maurie J. Manning and have colorful drawings of both people and scenes. Roz Rosenbluth is best known for her fiction in Cricket and Highlights magazines for children.

From Academic Planet
Flashlight Press has done it again. This September, they will be releasing another jewel to add to their children’s literature treasure chest. Getting to Know Ruben Plotnick, by Roz Rosenbluth, waltzed into my heart and touched it in a way that no other children’s book has. Her main character, David, has two people in his life whom he adores. One is his zany friend Ruben Plotnick, also known as the coolest kid in his class. The other is his dear Grandma Rosie, whose aging has her occasionally behave in unexpected, sometimes weird ways. Even though (or maybe because) he loves them both, David would rather that they not meet. But meet they do, and wait until you see what happens when the paths of silly and senile cross. Beautifully illustrated by Maurie J. Manning, this newcomer to the Flashlight Press treasury is sure to captivate its readers, young and old alike. Check out this book and I think you’ll agree that Ruben Plotnick is a cool character kid that you’ll love getting to know! – Barbara Gruener, Counselor at Westwood Elementary in Friendswood, TX, and writer of a guidance webpage on academicplanet.com

From From the Akron Beacon Journal
Book introduction to Alzheimer’s Ruben Plotnick is a smart, freckle-faced redhead. Antics such as smearing peanut butter mustaches under his nose and blowing bubbles in his chocolate milk have earned him a reputation of being the coolest kid in class. Everyone wants to be pals with “The Plotnick.” Naturally, David is excited when Ruben asks if he can come to his house to do homework. But David is nervous when wondering what  “The Plotnick” will think of Grandma Rosie. You see, Grandma easily forgets stuff and imagines other things — like when she’s playing checkers and in the middle of the game knocks over the board and starts a quarrel with Grandpa Nate, who died five years ago. But it’s when she suddenly calls out, “Nate, let’s waltz!” that worries David the most. What happens if she wants to dance when The Plotnick comes to visit? Of course, that’s exactly what happens. While the class clown is sitting in the kitchen sink and blowing bubbles in his milk, Grandma tells Ruben, “Nate, let’s waltz.” To David’s surprise, The Plotnick wipes his hands on his pants and wiggles out of the sink. Both Grandma and the boy wear a grin as the twosome dance around the kitchen.  David is certain Ruben will poke fun at Grandma the next day at school, but he doesn’t murmur a word.  At dinner, Grandma Rosie announces, “I want the little boy in the sink.”  It’s time to waltz. Getting to Know Ruben Plotnick by Roz Rosenbluth is a marvelous tool for introducing youngsters ages 5 to 9 to Alzheimer’s disease. The endearing tale is just in time for the World Alzheimer’s Day on Wednesday. If you don’t buy the book for the story, consider it for the artwork. The illustrations by Maurie J. Manning are enchanting. – Kim Hone-McMahan

From Sy Fliegel, President of the Center for Educational Innovation of the Public Education Association
Getting to know Ruben Plotnick is a wonderful and heartwarming experience. All children will recognize the anticipated embarrassment they experience when their friends first meet their parents or grandparents. The book is funny, touching and insightful — and has much of value to say about family and friendship.

From Take Care Newsletter of the Family Caregiver organization
Many parents worry about the effect a live-in elderly grandparent or other relative will have upon family life. Getting to Know Ruben Plotnick addresses some of these issues in a delightful and entertaining manner. The book successfully presents behavior children may observe in older relatives in a non-threatening and respectful way, while addressing the child’s feelings with sensitivity. Young David lives with his parents, sister, and grandmother Rosie. He and Rosie’s strange habits: calling him “little boy” instead of David; arguing with Grandpa Nate when she plays checkers, although he died five years ago; suddenly calling out, “Nate, let’s waltz.” But when Ruben Plotnick, the coolest kid in class, invites himself to David’s house, David is worried. How will Ruben react to Grandma Rosie’s unpredictable behavior? Will the popular but zany Ruben imitate her in class the next day? Will he laugh out loud if she demands a dance? David tries to keep Grandma and Ruben separated. But when the inevitable happens and Grandma calls out, “Nate, let’s waltz,” David is relieved as he watches Ruben rise to the occasion and dance around the kitchen with Grandma. David learns that besides being the coolest kid in class, Ruben is a compassionate kid with a truly warm heart. By the title that she chooses, Roz Rosenbluth shines a spotlight on the theme that we can really only get to know people when we see them in different situations. But there is another, equally important theme: family life need not be disrupted by including someone a little unusual. Although the cover states that the book is for ages 5 to 9, older children and adults will relate to the message of love and acceptance as well. – Susan Bria

From Betty Dravis, Amazon Top 1000 Reviewer
GETTING TO KNOW RUBEN PLOTNICK is one of those rare books that has “high concept” … a term I hear a lot from publishers looking for special books, books that could become best-sellers and/or classics. Author Roz Rosenbluth chose a subject that’s on people’s minds more and more in recent years: dementia. She wove a charming story around Ruben Plotnick, a lovable, yet often wacky, boy with an endearing name and a heart of gold. When Ruben meets his new friend’s Grandma Rosie, Ruben teaches David a thing or two about compassion … and much more. What does Grandma Rosie do to embarrass her grandson? How does Ruben handle it? What does the reader learn from this story? All those questions are answered as the story unfolds and follows its natural course to a sweet ending.This sensitive and clever story is about friendship and real family values. I totally agree with the National Institute on Aging when they say the story deals with “what dementia looks like from a child’s perspective.”
The delightful illustrations by Maurice J. Manning bring the story alive, adding to the overall charm. Anyone who loves their aging parents or grandparents should read this book. It’s a heart-warming slice of American life in the new millennium.

From Large Print Reviews
A hard lesson for both children and adults to learn is: “Never judge a book by its cover!” This is exactly the lesson that is effortlessly taught in Getting to Know Ruben Plotnick an emotionally charged and lovely children’s picture story book by Roz Rosenbluth and accompanied by enchanting and airy watercolored illustrations by Maurie J. Manning. Ruben Plotnick is ‘that’ kid in school that everyone wants to have for a friend. He’s popular, precocious, and a born jester. So David is stunned when Ruben volunteers to come over his house so that they can do their homework together. David is thrilled at getting the chance to hang with Ruben, but he’s also scared. David’s Grandmother, Rosie, is a bit senile and David is afraid that Ruben might make fun of her, and that his meeting Grandma Rosie might destroy any chance they have of ever becoming real friends. David, however, has horribly misjudged Ruben. When they arrive at David’s house, Grandma Rosie is, as David feared, in one of her strange moods. Staying odd things, talking to people that are not there, and she wants to dance! Ruben does the unexpected. When Grandma Rosie calls him Nate and asks him to dance, he complies and they have a lovely waltz together. During his entire time at David’s house, Reuben never makes fun of Grandma Rosie, never makes a face, nor does anything to make it seem like her actions are anything but normal! In short, Ruben is a perfect gentleman and David’s fears of what his classmate might think about him and his family quickly fade away. Getting to Know Ruben Plotnick is a warm-hearted story about friendship, dealing with a senile relative, and learning not to jump to conclusions about someone before you really get to know them. Please note: Although not marketed as a large print book, Getting to Know Ruben Plotnick, is printed in a clear and approximately 18-point font, making it fall well within the parameters of a large print book. Not only does this large font size make it easier for new readers to enjoy the book, it will also prove a boon to anyone needing, or desirous, of large print material to read aloud to little ones who cannot yet read on their own. – Anna Dogole

From My Shelf
Ruben Plotnick is the coolest kid in David’s class. He’s zany. He’s funny. And now he wants to go to David’s house. David’s thrilled, but worried – how will Ruben react to David’s Grandma Rosie whose behavior is more than a little unpredictable? Roz Rosenbluth’s story is touching and delightful but it was Maurie Manning’s lively yet sensitive illustrations that really made me fall in love with Grandma Rosie and the good hearted Ruben. Though David’s parents may be turning sad eyes toward Grandma Rosie, we see through the children’s eyes at the joyful woman who loves to dance. It’s a lovely book about friendship and seeing people as they really are. Kids will think it’s terrific fun – but I warn you, parents, you just might get a little misty as you read. The best books do that to you. – Jan Fields, myshelf.com

From Eclectic Homeschool Online
…Getting to Know Ruben Plotnick is a book in which, as the publisher puts it, “silly meets senile” with charming results. Ruben is the smartest, coolest, funniest, most popular boy in class – the one every other kid wants to be friends with. When he abruptly asks to go home with the narrator one afternoon, a young boy’s heart drops through the floor. What will Ruben Plotnick make of the narrator’s grandmother? She’s a wonderful, older lady who, because of her slight senility, would be perfect fodder for The Plotnick’s jests; the next day could see a whole new round of jokes making their way through the school, all at Grandma Rosie’s expense. What happens? Well, let me put it this way. Ruben Plotnick is a young man that I wouldn’t mind getting to know. This dustjacketed hardcover is lovely, filled with colorful illustrations that will make you smile. My favorites are the pictures of Grandma Rosie dancing. – Larissa McKay

From Outlook Magazine
In a touching and charming story, David is understandably concerned when the coolest kid in his class, Ruuben Plotnick, invites himself over after school. What will Ruben think of David’s Grandma Rosie, who plays a great game of checkers but whose favorite activity is dancing with Grandpa Nate, who died five years ago? To David’s great relief, Ruben Plotnick graciously offers to waltz around the kitchen with Grandma Rosie. This is a compassionate story about dealing with senility in those we love and of blossoming friendship.

From LookingGlassReview.com
David is sure that he knows all there is to know about Ruben Plotnick. Reuben is the class clown who blows bubbles in his chocolate milk, who likes to imitate people’s voices, and who is also very “smart.” In short Ruben, who is called “The Plotnick” in school, is the kind of kid everyone wants to be friends with. David is therefore delighted when Ruben asks if he can come over to David’s house after school. There is a problem though, and David cannot help being a bit worried about the visit. David’s grandmother lives with David and his family and though they all love her, she can be a little difficult to deal with at times. Grandma sometimes forgets things, she makes odd requests, and calls David “little boy” instead of using his proper name. In short Grandma can be a little embarrassing and David cannot help hoping that Grandma will be asleep in her room when he and Ruben get to the house. Unfortunately Grandma isn’t asleep and though David tries to get Ruben away from her as quickly as he can, his plans go by the wayside when Grandma asks Reuben to dance with her. David is certain that this is going to be his undoing but Ruben Plotnick shows David that just when you think you know a person, they do something that surprises you. This picture book highlights a very painful topic – senility in the elderly. Though David loves his grandmother, she also makes him worry that people will laugh at him and her when she ‘acts up.’ The book also shows the reader that one can never assume something about others. David is sure that Ruben is going to make fun of Grandma, but the school comedian turns out to have sensitive hidden depths. – Marya Jansen-Gruber, Editor

From The Detroit Jewish News, AppleTree
This is the kind of book that’s going to surprise you at every turn. And the surprises are all pleasant.Ruben Plotnick is the most popular boy in the class, the kid everyone calls “The Plotnick.” He’s got red hair, he’s funny, he’s smart, and “Everyone wants to be his friend.” One day, Ruben says he wants to study with David. The only problem: David’s grandmother is forgetful. She’s “very pretty,” David says, and she’s a “great singer, too. …And she still makes the best chocolate cookies I ever tasted.” But she spends much of her day in her rocking chair, and she “talks” to her dead husband, Nate. The worst, though, David says, is when she’s quietly sitting around, then suddenly jumps up and calls, “Nate, let’s waltz!” This is just the kind of scene David fears as he heads to his apartment, Ruben Plotnick at his side.When they arrive, Ruben makes himself right at home. He jumps in the kitchen sink and has some milk and cookies. Grandma is there, speaking in her quiet voice. She tells Ruben hello. David can “just imagine [Ruben] answering questions in class the next day in Grandma’s voice. In fact, I expected him to say hello back to Grandma in a funny whisper.” But instead, Ruben simply greets Grandma in his normal way.
Then it happens.
“Nate, let’s waltz,” Grandma says as she looks at Ruben.
David intervenes. “Okay, let’s waltz,” he answers, hoping to get it over with quickly.
But Grandma wants to waltz with Ruben. David is cringing.
Ruben jumps down from the sink, puts his arm around Grandma’s waist and dances.
“I thought I knew ‘The Plotnick’ but boy was I wrong,” David says. “Ruben, the class clown, had this perfect situation handed to him, sure to get a laugh, but he never acted it out, never imitated Grandma’s voice or her dancing.”
What a charming book about having your worst fears never come true. -Elizabeth Applebaum, AppleTree Editor

From Jewish Book World
Ruben Plotnick is the coolest kid in class, and David is delighted when “the Plotnick” wants to come over to do homework with him. Delighted, that is, until he begins thinking about his senile grandmother’s erratic behavior and how weird it will seem to Ruben. His worst fears come true because Grandma Rosie at first doesn’t speak and then suddenly demands that Ruben dance with her, calling him by her late husband’s name. What fun he will make of this in school, David thinks, but Ruben proves that he is a mensch by dancing with Grandma and not making fun of it later. I’m glad I’m getting to know Ruben Plotnick,” thinks David at the conclusion, acknowledging that under his friend’s zany exterior, there is a warm heart… Rosenbluth’s story and the accompanying illustrations certainly have child appeal…”
– Linda Silver

About the Creators

Roz

Roz Rosenbluth is the author of Getting To Know Ruben Plotnick, illustrated by Maurie Manning. Roz was a winner of the Highlights Magazine humorous fiction contest in 2000, and her stories have appeared in Highlights and Cricket Magazines. Of her craft, Roz says, “I feel most fulfilled when my stories reflect the culture and values I grew up with in a close community of working-class, politically aware people. My husband, a research scientist, and my three children, have always encouraged my writing and have been my severest critics and biggest fans. Now I am lucky to have six grandchildren to inspire me with their sense of wonder, tears and laughter.” Roz has published twelve picture books, and lives in New Rochelle, New York.

 

manninghead

Maurie Manning is the illustrator of Getting to Know Ruben Plotnick, written by Roz Rosenbluth. She does much of her art digitally, which allows her to imitate almost any traditional media. Maurie has the amazing ability to draw her warm and friendly characters from very unique perspectives. “Since first grade I’ve known I wanted to write and illustrate children’s books. …I spent much of my childhood in the self-imposed study of anatomy. I had the ridiculous idea that Norman Rockwell “drew from his head,” and my goal was to draw people as well as he did! So I poured over anatomy textbooks, drawing bones and muscle groups for hours at a time. I have to admit my extreme disappointment in finding out that Rockwell used a projector and traced photographs onto his canvas. …much thanks to my mother whose constant critique that my work was “too stiff” helped me move out of simple representational drawing and into a unique personal style.” Maurie has illustrated many kids’ books including How Full Is Your Bucket for Kids. Her past and present art clients include: Children’s Digest, Child Life, Humpty Dumpty’s, Highlights for Children, Sony Interactive, Josten’s Learning, Computer Curriculum Corporation, Strategic Simulations Inc., Lucent Books, Steck-Vaughn, Pearson, Hampton Brown, Child Welfare League of America, Girl Scouts of America, and Boyds Mills Press. Maurie lives in Stockton, California. You can see more of Maurie’s work on her personal website.

Book Details

ISBN: HC 9780972922555 / ePDF 9781936261031 / ePUB 9781936261024 / KF8 9781936261222 Print Length: 32 Full Color Pages
Publication Date
: Fall 2005
Age Group
: 4-8
Lexile Measure
: 820L
Word Count
: 939
Foreign Edition
: Chinese

Activity Guides & More

THEMES: friendship, tolerance, family, aging, grandparents, Alzheimer’s