You never get too old to forget how much you deplored afternoon naps as a child. Who wants to sleep in the middle of a grand scheme? As a parent, the relief of a child taking a break is real. You are exhausted, needing quiet as much as they do. As an elder, a rest is not craved so much as savored.
The ingenuity of parents who know their child needs to sleep is a marvel. Strollercoaster (Little, Brown And Company, June 1, 2021) written by Matt Ringler with art by Raul the Third and Elaine Bay is an extraordinary cruise through the neighborhood. It's a rip-roaring ride on the wild side!
There's a time each and every day when
the inside feels too small for Sam . . .
Blocks block every path!
Trains have become untrained.
This dad knows there is only one thing to conquer this regular ritual. One, cranky child is placed in her stroller. Once secured and reminded of proper protocol, father and daughter take off. This duo has a need for speed!
They race by other homes, shops, and familiar faces. They climb past the basketball court and park playground. Reaching the crest, they whoosh down. Sam feels her spirits lifting her up, her grumpiness disappearing.
Dad performs near magical feats. Sam can't get enough of this fast and fascinating jaunt. Twists and turns take them deep into darkness---a tunnel.
There is no time or need for fear. A light appears ahead. Sounds fade. Speeds diminish. Destinations are reached. It is Strollercoaster for the win . . . again.
There is nothing quite so frustrating as being at odds with your world. Author Matt Ringler describes this daily routine perfectly in his opening sentences. The story quickly elevates when a walk becomes a rousing romp with a lively blend of dialogue, sound effects, and sensory observations. Here is a passage.
THE NEIGHBORHOOD FLIES BY!
Fresh sneakers. Sweet smells.
Shouts from the basketball court.
One look at the open dust jacket and readers know this dad and daughter are whizzing toward fabulous heights. (The image on the front and back extends to the flap edges. It's a panoramic view of the street.) On the right, front, we focus on Sam and her dad. Readers are invited to stop and look at all the elements here and throughout the book. Notice the smiling star and the stars on the stroller wheels. Notice Dad's necklace and the tiny heart on the post. On the spine, the symbol for the publisher is placed on an open paper scroll. (This placement is used for text on the title page, also.)
To the left, on the back, an ice cream store is called Sam's Shop. Another building has the words stroll, foot and walk on it in English. On either side of the doorway the Spanish words camina and pronto aptly describe what is happening. (Spanish and English words appear in the illustrations throughout the book.)
On the book case is a replication of the original artwork. It appears to be pencil on cream. The details are marvelous. This also gives the reader an idea of how transformative color is to artwork.
On the opening and closing endpapers is an identical illustration. A robin's egg blue sky is placed over an intricately drawn depiction of the entire neighborhood. That canvas is in varying shades of golden yellow with the lines in a rusty red. (It's guaranteed every time you look at this, you will find something new.)
The illustrations for this book were done in pen, ink, and pencil on paper and in Adobe Photoshop for the color
by Raul The Third and Elaine Bay.
On the title page, the bright, bold hues and neighborhood scene welcome us into the story. The title word looks like the marquee in an amusement park. (Perfection!) The image sizes and perspectives vary to heighten the moods and pacing in the narrative.
Readers will notice how things change from the beginning to the end of the story. The expressions on the stuffies shift. The alphabet blocks spell different words. Facial features on Sam and her dad reflect the stage of their ride. People in the community are happy to see the duo.
One of my many, many favorite pictures is a double-page image with two smaller insets on the left. Sam and her dad are in the tunnel. The technique reminds me of scratchboard artwork. All the lines are in varied colors on black. In the first picture in the upper left, Sam and her dad move along the wall with OSCURO in large letters. Beneath this, in a second smaller visual, are the words
in a speech balloon.
As they move through the tunnel on the right toward the light and neighborhood beyond the exit, the word LUZ is written on the wall above the bricks. A heart has been drawn on the wall.
Readers will be with Sam and her dad every step of the way from beginning to end of Strollercoaster written by Matt Ringler with art by Raul The Third and Elaine Bay. Regardless of your age, you will identify with this story. The words and artwork make this afternoon ritual soar off the pages and straight into our collective hearts. I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional bookshelves.
To learn more about Raul The Third and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website. Matt Ringler has accounts on Instagram and Twitter. Raul The Third has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. At the publisher's website is a video chat with the illustrators. There is a cover reveal and conversation at A Fuse #8 Production, School Library Journal. Matt Ringler is interviewed at The Horn Book.