Who knew that Catherine the Great was such a sport?
Today’s roller-coaster enthusiasts can thank Catherine the Great for her role in the creation of an early roller coaster. Since the 1400s, Russians had created ice slides, like giant versions of today’s playground slides but made of wood, with the slide itself covered in ice. Catherine apparently loved wintertime, when she could whoosh down the slope in her “jeweled tiara and tapestry gown,” but the fun ended when winter ended and the ice melted. So she ordered her royal builders to create a slide that could be enjoyed year-round. She envisioned “Gilded beams and poles as high as a mountain. Golden stairs that spiraled all the way to the top.” What she got, in 1784, was a wooden structure that threatened splinters in “her royal bum.” It was all downhill from there…and uphill…and around. With the installation of rails and a wheeled carriage, it was a success and the progenitor of the many refinements over the many years since. In lighthearted illustrations rendered in Adobe Photoshop, Catherine is portrayed as a rosy-cheeked, fun-loving, olive-skinned young woman who sponsored schools, universities, and museums. Absent from both text and illustrations are the despot’s less-sterling attributes. Simplifying history to provide context for a purposively upbeat story can be a slippery slope, but young readers will enjoy the fun in which the volume is intended.
A breezy look at a historical footnote, just right for young children on their way to the amusement park. (author’s note, timeline, bibliography, acknowledgments) (Picture book. 4-8)