Rocky Road by Rose Kent

“Ice cream warms the heart, no matter what the weather.” That’s the Dobson family motto. So it should make perfect sense for the Dobsons—Ma Delilah, craft-loving twelve year old Tess, and turtle-loving Jordan–to open an ice cream shop in Schenectady, New York. Except they live in San Antonio. And they have no money, other than an emergency fund that’s only for, well, emergencies. And their old broken down car has no heater. And Delilah, who has wonderful, stupendous, fantastic ideas also deals with something that Tess calls “Shooting Stars.” Delilah goes full bore with boundless energy and endless schemes until she crashes so hard that she can’t even get out of bed. And Tess is left to pick up the pieces.

I enjoyed the characters in this story:

Tess, who loves her mom but is tired of get-rich-quick schemes and spending sprees that only end in disaster. Tess also loves her little brother Jordan, sewing and decorating and all sorts of crafts, and Rocky Road ice cream.

Delilah, whose “Bible” is The Inside Scoop, a manual on how to open a successful ice cream shop. Delilah knows she has mood swings, but she won’t go to a doctor because she doesn’t want those people trying to get inside her head and she can’t afford medical treatment anyway.

Senior Chief Petty Officer Fred Morrow, retired U.S. Navy who has a crusty exterior, an artificial leg, and a heart of gold.

Jordan, who’s hearing-impaired and loves turtles and sometimes throws tantrums when he has a hard time communicating.

Winnie, a loving senior citizen and retired nurse who sings with a group called THe Salty Old Dogs.

Gabby, Tess’s new friend who’s into peer mediation and vegetarianism and peaceful resolution to conflict and Chinese astrology.

So, the characters were fun, and the details on how to start and publicize and run a business were good to read. But the parts about Mom’s bipolar woes felt just a little forced, like an ABC Afterschool Special with a theme. Rocky Road, although it was a cute story, sometimes felt like a lesson in how to deal with a deaf little brother and a bipolar mom who’s running your family into poverty. Maybe it wouldn’t read that way to you at all.

By the way, every one of my children who saw the book lying on my bed pointed out to me, separately and without being asked, that Rocky Road ice cream is NOT pink. Why, they asked, is it called Rocky Road with strawberry ice cream pictured on the front? Children are very literal.

Other takes:
A Year of Reading: “I love the way that Rose Kent combines something as fun as ice cream with difficult life issues. A great combination that works well.”

Melissa at Book Nut: “The conflict is all with Tess and her mother; Tess feels so much older than her twelve years, mostly because her mother — due to an eventual diagnosis of bipolar disorder — is so unreliable. And the whole crazy mother thing is often so overdone. But in this case it worked . . .”

Rocky Road has been nominated for the 2010 Cybils Awards in the Middle Grade Fiction category.

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