A freshly-made rolex flies into the air and lands at the top of a steep hill in front of a hungry rat. As the unexpected breakfast bounty starts to roll down the hill, Rat gives chase and is soon joined by an assortment of other creatures and people.
If you think that this is a story about a luxury watch brand, then it’s time to think again. A ‘rolex’ as it turns out is a street food speciality sold across Uganda – a chapati filled with scrambled eggs, cabbage, tomato and onion, which is then rolled up.
I love that this simple snack is the main focus of this picture book from Uganda. No sooner has the rolex been rolled and wrapped by Ochan the Rolex Man than a freak occurrence (a rock, in fact) sends it soaring into the air and away from a very hungry customer. Up, up it goes before landing at the top of a very steep hill, right in front of a rat who can’t believe his luck. Rat takes off in hot pursuit of the unexpected breakfast bounty, soon followed by a cat, a dog, a boy and the boy’s mother. It’s a straightforward, wonderfully fun concept where each double spread introduces a new character, and each character chases the one in front down the very steep hill. And, of course, it allows for a lot of repetition, which is perfect for language learners or early independent readers.
Unbelievably, the rolex ends up at its starting point (another freak rock occurrence) with its pursuers piled one on top of the other, wondering why on earth they had been running. Apart from Rat, of course, who knew exactly what he was chasing down the hill. The moral of the tale (there is one, and no I’m not giving it away here!) is simply brilliant. Plus it made me chuckle.
Andrew Jackson Obol’s colourful cartoon-style illustrations set the story in context – check out that nod to Uganda on the cover! As well as the main characters and action, I particularly enjoyed exploring the backdrops – the local shops, signs, street scenes with people going about their everyday business . . . the little details. The artwork also adds much to the fun, humour and action of the story. Rat is a fabulous character, with his expressive black eyes, protruding front teeth and long, skinny body. As for the chase, you can feel the movement on every page.
The picture book includes a handy page at the back that explains what a ‘rolex’ is and provides a recipe so you can make your own (yum!)
The Rock and Roll Rolex is a rollicking read that should appeal to a wide audience. Now to try out that recipe!
The Rock and Roll Rolex by Cathy Kreutter, illustrated by Andrew Jackson Obol (Cornerstone Development, 2018)
Cathy Kreutter is dual citizen of the USA and Uganda. She worked as teacher librarian at the International School of Uganda for 25 years and now writes and publishes children’s books, working closely with Ugandan illustrators. She is based in Kampala, Uganda.
Andrew Jackson Obol was born and raised in Uganda. He is currently based in Edmonton, Canada where he works as a freelance illustrator specialising in story-boarding, concept art and children’s book illustration. In 2014, he was artist-in-residence at Happy Harbor Comics in Edmonton.