Review: Nothng Could Stop Her

Nothing Could Stop Her: The Courageous Life of Ruth Gruber

by Rona Arato, illustrated by Isabel Muñoz

Kar-Ben Publishing (imprint of Lerner Publishing Group), 2023

Category: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Jeanette Brod

Buy at

After reading Nothing Could Stop Her: The Courageous Life of Ruth Gruber, I wish I had known the subject of this middle grade biography. Ruth Gruber was born in Brooklyn in 1911 to Jewish Russian immigrant parents. She lived a life that made her parents both fearful and proud. "Courageous" is the right word to describe a woman whose life included adventures as a journalist and activist. She lived to be 105.

The biography focuses on Ruth’s early life. It presents a portrait of a curious, smart and fearless young woman who seized opportunity whenever and wherever it presented itself. She graduated high school at fifteen, earned a master’s degree in German at eighteen and completed a doctorate in Germany on Virginia Woolf in an unprecedented one year. Then she embarked on her career as a journalist.

The story is told against the backdrop of Ruth’s parents' loving but reservedly supportive responses to her ambitious plans. They are perpetually shocked by her decisions but learn to trust her instincts. There is no thought of marriage and children, not even when presented with a cradle by a Yakut peasant woman on a farm in Siberia. Ruth is a role model for anyone who has ever wanted to forge their own path or follow a dream.

Ruth said of her life, “I’ve never been an observer. I have to live a story to write it.” Underlying the book is the theme that the personal and political are inextricably linked. Ruth looked antisemitism in the face in Hitler’s Germany. She advocated for war refugees on board ship and in the upstate farm community of Oswego, New York. She traveled to the far reaches of Russian territories and to Alaska under the auspices of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The narrative is given context through a series of sidebars that provide geographical, historical and cultural perspective for Ruth’s exploits. There is commentary on everything from Coney Island Adventures to the Great Depression to Russia’s Many People. The book includes a Glossary, Source Notes, Timeline, Selected Bibliography, and Index. The simple illustrations sprinkled throughout the seventeen short chapters help create a book that could supplement a curriculum on Holocaust, Women’s Studies or any of the specific historical events of which Ruth was a part.

Ruth lived a Jewish life. In an Author’s Note, the reader learns about her work as a humanitarian, writer and lecturer as well as about her husband and children. If some of these later experiences were part of the book’s narrative, it might have told a more comprehensive tale. But Nothing Could Stop Her is a thoughtfully constructed, easy read with a lot of Jewish content for the casual reader or the student in search of inspiration.

Are you interested in reviewing books for The Sydney Taylor Shmooze? Click here! 
Reviewer Jeanette Brod is the Children’s and Teen Services Associate at the New Milford Public Library in Connecticut. She also serves as an Educational Consultant for Connecticut’s Voices of Hope HERO Center. Jeanette is the former Director of Lifelong Learning at Temple Sholom in New Milford and a past Vice-President of the Children’s Book Council in New York City. She holds a Master’s degree in Comparative Literature from Indiana University, Bloomington. Jeanette and her husband, Sasha, are the proud parents of two grown children.