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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Lots of rolling. Not so much with the coasting.
on November 4, 2005
I think I've finally pinpointed what it is about Marla Frazee I like so very much. It isn't her choice of stories necessarily (though after reading through her "New Baby Train" I know she has excellent taste). It's her people. Somehow or other she managed to give every tiny person in her books a distinct and completely original personality. I can't figure out how she does it either. The ultimate example of this has to be her fantastic 2003 creation, "Roller Coaster". Taking a concept so simple that I'm wondering why thousands of other authors hadn't thought of it first, Frazee walks us through the process of riding a roller coaster. From the first moments of anticipation to the final plunge and disembarking, our author/illustrator has taken a simple concept and turned it into picture book gold. Whether you've a kid fascinated by roller coasters, deeply afraid of them, or has never even HEARD of such contraptions in all their days, "Roller Coaster" is designed to delight and amuse.
A long line of people appears at a fairground. Ahead of them is a roller coaster named, "Rocket". As the line gets closer to the front, "Lots of people change their mind about riding the roller coaster at the very last minute". At long last, twelve lucky people climb into the cars. Some of them are excited while others appear calm and collected. Suddenly we're watching the people on the ride as they experience a simple variety of twists, turns, and loop-dee-loops. The passengers (each pair has their own particular story) deal with the roller coaster in a variety of different ways. The tough guys feel ill. The couple who appear to be on a first date snuggle closer as the ride goes on. The elderly couple in the straw hats adore every wild minute. And the little girl in the front becomes a roller coaster enthusiast by the end. The ride is done. The people get out. And the little girl insists on riding the coaster one more time.
The way Frazee sets up the book, the reader is bound to sympathize the most with the little girl who is riding a roller coaster for the very first time. It's wonderful to read through this book several times and catch the consistently interesting details that progress as the ride does. It took me several readings before I realized that the couple on the first date weren't all snuggly at the beginning. And there's a great moment where a woman, traveling with her son on the coaster, adjusts her hair carefully at the start only to end up with a slightly modified afro by the end. The tough guy who opts out of the line (and is derided by his buddies for doing so) stands over his two nauseous friends at the end of the book. Heck, even the tiny woman reading a red book at the very very first page is visible looking at the tough guys with concern at the book's end. Only fellow picture book illustrator Anno could be said to offer us quite as many tiny details. I love the sheer number of interracial couples in this book, by the way. Leave to Ms. Frazee to give us casual diversity where other illustrators would offer us none.
So let's recap. The story is fun, the illustrations whiz-bang (for lack of a better word), and the book a joy. Frazee even appears to include her own inside jokes in the story. Though I have no just cause to believe this, I am completely convinced that Marla Frazee inserted her husband and three sons on the first two-page spread of the book. There's something about the man's goatee that just struck me as a little too... knowing. Not that I have any evidence to back this theory up with, of course. But that's what's so nice about "Roller Coaster". Even when you've read it twenty times over, there's always something new to look at and enjoy. Great for kids, irregardless of their reading ability.