Review: The Roller Coaster Kid by Mary Ann Rodman

roller coaster kid

The Roller Coaster Kid by Mary Ann Rodman, illustrated by Roger Roth

Zach loves spending time in the summer with his grandparents.  They go to the beach, fly kites, find shells, and go to Oceanside Park.  The only thing Zach doesn’t like there is the rollercoaster.  He waits in line with Grandpa but then always changes his mind at the last moment.  Instead, he rides the Big Wheel with his grandmother.  Zach knows that the next time, he will be able to ride the rollercoaster.  But the next time he visits, everything is different: his grandmother is no longer there.  His grandfather is not like he used to be at all.  Zach knows one thing that is sure to cheer up his grandfather, and that’s the rollercoaster.  But will Zach be able to ride it this one, very important, time?

Rodman tells this story with clarity and gentleness.  It’s a story of the deep connection between grandparents and grandchildren and how that connection can help with grief.  It is also a story of bravery thanks to love.  Children will relate to the connection with grandparents, though the jolly cover may not warn parents that this is a story of loss. 

Roth’s illustrations have a subtle vintage quality to them, something that hearkens back to yesteryear though it is solidly set in the modern day.  The illustrations of Zach on the rollercoaster are wonderful, showing the fear, the doubt and finally the exhilaration. 

A roller coaster book that shows the roller coaster ride of life as well, this book addresses the loss of a grandparent with a shining heart.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Viking.

Review: The Mother of Monsters by Fran Parnell

mother of monsters

The Mother of Monsters: A Story from South Africa by Fran Parnell, illustrated by Sophie Fatus

This second in a series of monster tales features a story from South Africa retold for young readers.  It is the story of Ntombi, the mischievous and brave daughter of the chief, who is determined to see the dangerous Ilulange River with her own eyes.  Her father allows her the trip to the river as long as she takes the other girls along with her.  When they finally reached the legendary river, the girls are disappointed.  Instead of danger, they have found a river that looks perfect for swimming.  Leaving their clothes on the bank, the girls splash in the water.  Then they discover that their clothes are missing.  It could have been the Mother of Monsters who took them!  One-by-one the girls pled with the monster to return their things, and the monster does.  But Ntombi is not willing to beg for her clothing, so the monster swallows her whole.  But that is not the end of the story!  You must read this book to find out how Ntombi survives the Mother of Monsters.

Parnell has broken the story into chapters, making it all the more pleasant for beginning readers who can take the story a bite at a time.  The chapters are short and filled with action.  The star of the book, Ntombi, is both brave and foolish, often at the same time.  Throughout the story, she learns about humility but also about love.  The book is clearly from another culture, which makes it all the more interesting to read.

Filled with bright colors, the paintings by Fatus have an intriguing folk quality to them.  The scenes of the girls without clothing are handled with skillfully placed leaves, hands and flowers.  The illustrations have humor to them, which makes the book very playful, something that is welcome with a monster devouring people.

A welcome addition to folktales, this is a story I had never heard before and really enjoyed.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Barefoot Books.