The Max and Ruby Dynamic—Fact…or Fiction!?!?!?

OK, so I need some information. Because the informatin I have? It is limited. I am lucky enough to be mother to the two most excellent girls, and we sit around the house being female. My husband, their dad, manfully (sorry) watches basketball, and thinks barrettes are pronounced "beret" like the French hat, but this guy-ness never really extends beyond him, if you know what I mean. There are no brothers, though we are blessed in nephews and boy cousins. But it's not enough, really, for me to know: the TRUTH about boys.


So here is my question: from the outside, it looks like the Max and Ruby stories are an incredibly accurate depicition of the dynamic between oh so many older sister/younger brother combos. That is: perfect (and bossy) big sister who knows how to do everything right, has to try to contain chaos/force field/loose cannon energy of essentially uncontainable little brother.

This is, in fact, what we see in lots and lots and lots of big sister-little brother situations. Is it that the girls just mature faster, and that coupled with being older makes them preternaturally together, and so, like goddesses, they stride the earth? Or is it that little boys just are tiny little spirits of chaos, overturning order and neatness whenever and whereever they can? Or are little boys getting a bum rap, just some more free-floating sexism to gum up the works?

I must say that we always really loved these books. Bunny Money was huge, with all the excellent cut-out money in the back. Not to mention the bluebird earrings that played "Oh What a Beautiful Morning!"

But the reality, people: what's your feeling?

15 thoughts on “The Max and Ruby Dynamic—Fact…or Fiction!?!?!?

  1. I have two boys, so I can’t respond to the girl/boy dynamic, but I can say (from my perspective) that the older boy is a sweet, cerebral, energetic five year old. His three year old younger brother, however, is that force of chaos you so describe. Is it because he is three? Or is it because he is a boy? Or is it because he has an angelic older brother? I dunno. I do know the family with two girls the same ages as our boys spends most of the time with us with their mouths agape asking questions like, “Are they always so energetic? Is it safe to let them run around like that?”
    Good question Diamond–gotta look at these books. Curious about responses!


  2. For some reason, I’ve never really come across the Max and Ruby books — only seen the cartoon in passing. I’m not sure how different they are, but the cartoon drives me batty! Ruby is SUCH a bossy little know-it-all, I end up feeling sorry for the ramshackle little Max for having such a battleaxe sister! Maybe I just take offense (such strong words for a little cartoon) at this portrayal of the older sister/younger brother dynamic, because I am the older sister to a younger brother, and we always got along great in a more equal way. I’m sure I was bossy at times, but I remember it being more benign (“SOMEBODY has to organize this musical production of Where the Wild Things Are, and it’s gonna be me”) than the unrelenting, superior air of authority that Ruby exhibits. Definitely an interesting question though, and again I’m not sure how the cartoon compares to the actual books. Now I’m going to have to investigate! 🙂


  3. I’ve got a daughter and two sons, and the Max and Ruby books — some of our favorites — are completely accurate. I find the whole debate of nature/nurture tedious, in the end. I have one mild son and one nutball — but together, they’re two boys in every stereotypical way.


  4. I have to agree, it is pretty accurate. I am on board with Sarah though. Ruby does have a superiority complex in the cartoon. I was never angry at her, however. It isn’t her fault that her parents are NEVER around.


  5. Speaking as the parent of an older daughter/younger son combo, the book seems accurate to me, with one exception, which is that in my household, the children fight crazily, passionately, and often. And my daughter can roar like a dinosaur, which is something I believe Miss Ruby would never do.
    Speaking as the older sister in a 2-girl combo, however, I can say that my sister brought chaos into my life and I definitely tried to boss her around, for as much good as it did me. So maybe it’s a bit older/younger dynamic and a bit girl/boy?


  6. I’ve got an older daughter and younger son, and it seems pretty accurate. My daughter is pretty bossy toward my son, but also puts up with a lot from him. He’s jealous of all the things she gets to do but also adores her and wants to be with her.


  7. I have a younger sister, and I was like Ruby . . . and then some. My oldest child is a girl, and she is definitely a Ruby . . . and then some!
    That being said, my son IS your typical 6-yr.-old boy – noisy, pest-y and nosy, so my daughter faces challenges that I never did.
    I think it has more to do with birth order than gender, but gender does play a big role in the sibling dynamic!


  8. We love love loved those Max and Ruby books. Saw the show a couple times and was not that impressed, but the books are great. Though we never had much of that dynamic around here as big sister has ADHD and is a major force for chaos herself. She was always up for whatever mayhem her little brother could come up with!


  9. I have a 5-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl, so I guess we make good anecdata for untangling birth order from gender? 😉 They are both pretty crazy and active, but my son is more so. My daughter is sometimes snuggly or likes to put things in order. My son is only happy if he’s creating something or destroying it and his favorite thing is to use things (anything) in a manner for which they were not intended to be used.
    He does get a little bossy with his sister, but not too much, and she’s pretty good at standing up to him. She does look up to him enormously and loves to hang with him and his friends.
    I don’t know why this should feel like a surprise, but just occurred to me as I was reading that I am the oldest sister to two little brothers. I know that I was kind of bossy it’s hard for me to judge in retrospect whether I was a real Ruby or whether my brothers were as mellow as I remember them being.
    Without any real justification, I think birth order is linked to bossiness, but I really do think boys are a lot more active and crazy than girls. Even when they’re little babies, I had to babyproof to the nines for my son, and everyone I know who was lackadaisical about it had girls. I came into parenting a staunch gender neutralist, but had to change my tune somewhat–although I believe there’s a ton of overlap. I love seeing my daughter’s energy, confidence, and even defiance as evidence of that.


  10. I have an older boy & a younger girl, 2.6 years apart. (They’d care about that extra 2 months.) Elder boy is very into rules, abiding by them, & circumventing them only when a cast-iron explanation can be called upon. He LOVES to be right. Little sister would LOVE to be as right as her brother, but she wants to see what happens when she cuts this piece of paper to shreds & then winds up all the tape around the pieces. To make a cat. (How did Alexander Calder’s parents survive the mess, I ask you? I know; they were already artists. I’m just a book hoarder. What can I say?)
    Anyway, my kids look like Max & Ruby, only the boy is Ruby, cause he’s older, & the girl is Max, cause she’s younger & has her brother, Ruby, to look out for her. Plus, she-Max has someone she loves to hang out with besides her parents, so, frankly, she’s out of parents’ sight more often than boy-Ruby ever was at this age.
    Caveat–this sounds like I have one obedient kid & one firecracker. I do not. I have two stubborn, approval-seeking, kind, generous, brilliant, energetic, nutty, balky, zoomy, thoughtful kids. They just come to those qualities through different doors on different days, as it were, i.e. maybe Max is learning how to be ordered & maybe Ruby is learning how to relax in those stories, too.
    What a festive discussion!


  11. 3 boys and 1 girl here (plus 2 parents) … boy girl boy boy, if that matters …
    Gender completely aside, my theory is that we all have a bit of Ruby in us, and a bit of Max (the same way we have both a bit of Frog and a bit of Toad). And we love them both.
    But I think Ruby is the parent(mother)-stand-in (because the best adventures with the most freedom happen when parents are absent), and Max is the semi-rebellious child making himself heard, and this *works* for these stories. Grandma has an important role, too, coming in and understanding the child-Max while validating the mother/sister-Ruby.
    But again, my boys all have their Ruby (bossy, directing, leadership) times as well as my girl does … and my girl has her Max (rebellious, different-idea, sticking-to-it) times as well as they do … and I think that’s why I love Ruby and Max both.


  12. Maybe I should try the books on, because TV Ruby drives me batty — she’s such a pill. But maybe it’s the voice that pushes my buttons; never thought of that. My daughter is definitely a Max, so it’s not a gender issue here. And while my kid can drive me up a tree, I really do love that anarchic spirit in kids.


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