“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Friday, October 15, 2010

Rocky Road • Middle-grade fiction

Rocky Road
Available now Alfred A. Knopf  Ages 8 - 12
“Ice cream warms the heart, no matter what the weather.
Story: That's the Dobson family motto. When things get tough, they break out the ice cream. The road has been especially rocky lately for Tess and her deaf little brother, Jordan. Then Ma abruptly moves the family from Texas to snowy Schenectady, NY, where she uses the last of their savings to open an ice cream shop in the dead of winter. How will they ever survive?

This moving story of family and community proves that, with a little help from family and friends, life can be sweet —and a little nutty—just like Rocky Road.

Story behind the story: Author Rose Kent shares this with us:  "Did you know that rocky road ice cream was created during the Great Depression just so folks would have something to smile about?

Rocky road is Tess Dobson’s favorite ice cream. It also describes what life has served up, between her family’s money troubles and Ma’s mood illness that leaves her in bed for days. Then Ma uproots the family to snowy upstate NY, to buy an ice cream shop with the last of their savings. How will they survive? 

Why did I set the book in Schenectady, NY? Because I've learned through travels and reader emails that, while New York City is famous and vividly imagined, even by those who have never been, the same can't be said about other parts of New York State. Schenectady is a vintage old city and I thought many kids might appreciate learning its history. I also thought they might have their own version of a vintage old city nearby that they could relate to. 

Why ice cream? I can recall the many times my family visited an ice cream shop to celebrate or commiserate an event. When my son hit the home run. When my daughter didn't get the part in the play. When someone got potty trained. That sort of thing. Like the Dobson family motto in ROCKY ROAD, I truly believe that "ice cream warms the heart, no matter what the weather."

I bet you see kids in your library who also live rocky road lives. I wrote ROCKY ROAD for these kids. My first book, KIMCHI & CALAMARI, celebrates food. ROCKY ROAD continues with ice cream, recipes included! 

Peace, books and ice cream,
Rose Kent

Watch this book trailer:


janette said...

I'm so wishing I would have seen this last Friday and gotten a copy...I'll have my children's librarian order it this weekend so I can get it read! Very excited!

middleschoolbookreviews said...

I loved (and reviewed) "Kimchee and Calamari" and I'm sure I'll love "Rocky Road"--Rose Kent tells good stories!

Sandra Stiles said...

I was able to identify with Tess so much. I have a sister and niece both with bi-polar disorder. For a short time my sister and her children lived with me. One minute my sister would be fine and the next she wasn't. The roller coaster ride was horrible. I felt so sorry for Tess and Jordan as they were drug along their mother's ride. This book showed there was hope out there. So often these kinds of stories make you feel like all is lost. When Tess's mom decides to move them to New York from Texas, Tess is afraid this is another bad idea that will take off and then with one bad day, fall apart. However, Tess learns that friends can be very powerful and all is not lost. I really enjoyed this and can't wait to put it on my shelves for my students. I know they will enjoy it as much as I did. I give this a 5

Beth said...

As I was reading this book, I kept thinking "how depressing". Why would kids want to read a depressing book? But then I realized that throughout my day, even in the midst of teaching, I kept thinking of Tess and how the book would end. I am happy to report that the book did end up on a positive note and left me feeling me good about the story!
I obviously wasn't too deterred by the mood of the story if the story and characters kept entering my thoughts!
I thought the peer mediation techniques, woven throughout the story, to show how those ideas can be used outside of a peer mediation room, was brilliant!

Tess becomes a teenage heroine in a realistic scenario and I believe that most middle school girls will be able to identify with her struggles.

I give this book a picnic rating of 5/5 stars. Not only was it a good read, but it also shows great use of conflict resolution, giving second chances and realizing that older generations can provide a lot of service to our community.

Mrs. Horne said...

I agree with the previous poster - the conflict resolution makes this worth the read. It is interesting because so many books attempt at addressing issues that many of our students do in fact face, but don't do it sufficiently. I never felt that way about this book - Tessa's struggle was "real" from the beginning and I really felt like I was right there beside her enduring the same struggles.

I am always on the lookout for books that deal with these sensitive issues so this is definitely one to be added to my bookshelves!

Picnic Basket Rating: 4/5

Julia Pitau said...

The writing of this book went down as smooth as a hand-made milkshake. Dealing with multiple physical disabilities from the different characters, I felt they were indeed believable. This is probably why I became easily drawn in to the storyline and had a difficult time putting the book down. Because it comes across as a book aimed toward the female audience, I give the book a Picnic Rating of 4.

Denair Charter Academy
Denair, CA

loonyhiker said...

I would give this book 4 out of 5. The book deals with issues that many students face and can relate to. I really felt frustration, despair, and anger for the main character of the book. At first I thought that students would find this depressing but then I realized that many of them could actually relate a lot to Tess and not feel so alone. I’m glad that things worked out well for her which gives hope for others who may read this book. This would be a great book for students to read who are facing many of the same issues. Topics for a class discussion could include: being a new student, deafness, bipolar disorder, elderly people, ice cream, creativity, interior design, peer mediation, and relationships.

Pat Hensley
Greenville, SC

Anonymous said...

This week I went to a character education conference and one of the presenters stated that Rose Kent based her Peer Mediation program on the program from Chatham Middle School. I was very impressed that she took the time to look at what was going on in neighboring schools to represent her characters. I really enjoyed this book. The characters were wonderful. The mother in the book suffered from bipolar disease. Tess used many of the strategies from her peer mediation program to help her mother, and get her mother's ice-cream shop up and running.
The characters and their conflicts were very real and at times heart wrenching. I know that my students will really enjoy this book.
Thank you Rose Kent and The Picnic Basket for sharing this book. It is a 5 in my basket.

Pat said...

This book was definitely a treat just like it's namesake, Rocky Road. The story line was believable. The characters were well-defined. My only issue is that it is listed as Middle-grade fiction for 8-12 year olds. I don't believe that 8 or 9 year olds would be able to relate to some of the issues in the book. I would recommend this book for 10-13 year olds, definitely for the middle school crowd.
Picnic Basket Rating 4/5

A. NONY Mouse said...

I'm going to have to give Rocky Road a solid 4. I like the way the book was designed, the cover was very inviting and I loved the extra scoop on the ice cream cone with each chapter.

The story flowed smoothly and I enjoyed the pacing too. The humor and pathos were spot on. The characters were all well fleshed out and I really like the way Rose Kent portrayed the bi-polar mother - not too over the top but she described enough symptoms to make it immediately recognizable to kids who have the same problem parent.

I think the book would appeal most to middle grade readers and/or tweens 9-12 years old.

Barbara Huff
Youth Services Librarian
Farmington NM Public Library

Heather Hill said...

"Rocky Road" pulled me in to the storyline and characters right away. I thought Tess was a great character, though I would have loved a bit more character development and backstory of Winnie and Mom. The story pace was quick and interesting, so I think students would get immersed quickly and want to finish the book to see what happens. I liked the positive ending and thought that the ice cream theme and quotations at the start of each chapter was another string that was woven throughout the story to capture the audience. The recipes at the end of the book were a cute surprise that I know my students will love. I give this book a 4 out of 5.

Heather Hill, Reading Specialist
Enterprise Elementary
Woodbridge, VA

Juli said...

I was worried at first about the subject matter and whether or not it would be too heavy or depressing for a juniot novel, but after reading the book I can truly say I am glad I did and can see many ways to use and recommend the book. The problem solving and realistic situations are done with honesty. It paints a true picture of what some of our students/families and friends go through daily. I have passed the book on to a dear friend whose ex-husband is bi-polar and whose daughter I hope can find a little Tess in herself.

I give the book 5/5.

5th grade teacher