cover image ROLLER COASTER


Marla Frazee, . . Harcourt, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-204554-8

In this witty and exhilarating exegesis of a thrill ride, Frazee (Hush, Little Baby: A Folk Song with Pictures) takes readers for a trip on the "the Rocket," a roller coaster that looks like the letter "S" run amok. Slyly and deliberately building the tension with a step-by-step narrative, Frazee begins with the wait in line (including the last-minute defections), visually panning the passengers-to-be and using the type to direct readers' gaze to a girl ("At least one of them has never ridden on a roller coaster before, ever"). Finally it is time for the embarkation ("Now it is too late for anyone to change their mind") and the deliciously painful anticipation of the first descent ("S-l-o-w-l-y the train is pulled up the hill by chain"). With a "WHOOSH," the train becomes a blur of red that shoots through successive spreads of white space, zipping, zooming, dipping, diving and looping as it threatens to escape the pages' margins (the type turns red and swoops as well). The subject affords a marvelous showcase for Frazee's expressive watercolors: the widely variable responses of the riders supply sustained theater as the train hurtles through space, with degrees of ecstasy (or agony) triggered by each twist and turn. When the ride is over, the girl, no longer a novice, begs her teenage brother chaperone for an encore, "right now!" Frazee's readers are likely to follow suit. Ages 3-7. (May)