Can-never-sit-still Rodney really wants to be outside, but it seems the world conspires against his urges—but now, Rodney finally makes it outside, “more outside than [he’s] ever been before.”
This book neatly nestles itself among recent trends of growing engagement with African-American populations within our national parks, as well as offering a measured response to the ways black boys may struggle with school cultures that enforce seated obedience over genuine curiosity. We all know Rodney. He’s a smart kid who follows his innate impulses, well enough to further his interest in the wonders of the world. The text allows readers to decide the thorny question of whether Rodney is worthy of an ADHD diagnosis. Because what happens when Rodney finally makes it outside on a class field trip to a park that puts him directly in contact with nature? He’s high, he’s low, and he’s everywhere in between as his natural impulses to explore and discover lead to a calm, “majestic” conclusion. Cooper’s signature style captures Rodney’s fidgetiness indoors and his growing excitement as the school bus rumbles out of town. In the park, a sequence of spectacular double-page sequences places Rodney within the park’s many wonders, and readers can see clearly how this immersion in nature allows the boy to be exactly himself.
Combining the amazement offered by the natural world with an unconventional and poignant dose of social commentary, this story gives more to its readers than what meets the eye. (Picture book. 5-9)