Calvin’s dad, famous pop star Johnny Coconut, is coming to Hawaii for a concert, and Calvin gets to choose ten friends to join him in the front row. By the time he’s given tickets to all his friends, he’s got one left. He knows he should probably give it to Shayla, his classmate who is a huge fan of his dad’s music, but Tito, one of the school bullies has already claimed the ticket for himself. While Calvin tries to make his choice, he also struggles with worries about seeing his dad again after such a long time, and meeting his stepmother.
I really liked Man Trip, the previous Calvin Coconut installment, because it really raised the bar in terms of developing Calvin as a character. Rocket Ride, once again, really gets to the heart of who Calvin is as a person and puts him through some challenges that ultimately affirm this identity. Series books are often dismissed by parents in my library as frivolous stories that are all the same, that do not promote “serious reading.” Rocket Ride - and nearly all the titles in the Calvin Coconut series - prove the exact opposite. They are beautifully descriptive, they support character education, and they portray the realities of growing up.
In this particular book, readers are treated to more Hawaiian language - right on the very first page, we learn that hamajang means “all mixed up” - and more of Calvin’s inner monologue, which really helps drive home his difficulty in deciding whether to cave to a bully or give Shayla a chance to attend the concert. It also keeps the reader empathetic to his actions, even when he takes some of the wrong ones, because we understand his motives. Long-time readers of the series will also finally meet Johnny Coconut, and the family scenes toward the end of the story present a really amicable and hopeful portrait of Calvin’s family that kids will likely find comforting.
My only complaint - and it’s actually not about the story itself at all - is that the title of this book absolutely does not sell the story. "Rocket Ride" is the name of Calvin’s dad’s hit song, but readers are not going to pick up on that until they already have the book in hand. I’m not sure what a better title would look like, but I think it should mention something more about the contents of the book so that kids who don’t yet know Calvin will still be inspired to read it based on some other interest.
I received a digital ARC of Rocket Ride from Random House via NetGalley.