Who moves to Schenectady, New York with plans to open an ice cream shop in the middle of winter? That’s what twelve-year-old Tess is wondering as she’s on the way there from San Antonio, Texas. Tess and her little brother Jordan, who is deaf, have seen a lot of their mother’s pie-in-the-sky plans crash and burn, along with most of the family’s savings. So she’s sure this new venture will be a disaster, especially since her mother tends to have bouts of boundless energy followed by times when she’s too depressed to get out of bed in the morning. Tess feels like the whole family is on a rocky road, just like the name of her favorite flavor of ice cream.
In Rocky Road, Rose Kent has written a book that will produce much thoughtful discussion in mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged nine to 12. Tess is a cautious girl who’s rightfully afraid of what will happen to her family if the business doesn’t work. She counters her mother’s enthusiasm with a healthy dose of skepticism. But she also has to learn that expecting to fail can have negative consequences too. Tess, her mother and her brother all grow in surprising ways throughout the story, and they find unexpected strengths to help them find solutions to their problems.
Ma is also a great character: she’s enthusiastic, full of endearing aphorisms that you can almost hear spoken in a Texas twang. But she also has to learn her limitations and to trust in someone other than herself. Of course, Rocky Road will also have you hankering for a couple of scoops of your own favorite ice cream. You might even be inspired to serve some of the special ice cream concoctions listed in the back of the book at your book club meeting. As Ma would say, “Ice cream warms the heart, no matter what the weather.” I couldn’t agree more, and I couldn’t give Rocky Road a higher recommendation.