Essie’s Kids and The Rolling Calf -3:Island Style Ghost Story

Written by Dr. & Mrs. Luke Brown

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I came across this e book as a promotion. I had not read the first two books in the planned five book series. This third short story is a strange combination of Jamaican folklore, adventures, and moral lessons that pleasantly surprised me. It makes a good addition to a classroom multicultural library. The book is well written with lots of colorful verbs, analogies and descriptive language though I did find one typo in which the word joint was used for the verb join. A smattering of Jamaican lingo like the word, “mon” also provides an authentic touch.

At the outset, the reader meets Karl who is tossing in his bed because he is haunted by the memory of the dreadful beast known as a rolling calf , a large swift running creature with dragon like eyes who voices terrifying sounds. Karl has met this creature in previous stories and now is anxiously awaiting to confront him once and for all. When he finally succumbs to sleep, he dreams that he is tiptoeing down the ghost-like streets at night. Suddenly, his brother Leonard shakes him; Karl realizes it is all a nightmare.

Karl’s family has journeyed from the city of Montego Bay to their country home in Clear Mont for the summer. His sisters, Myrtle, Geena and Betty play hopscotch and jump rope, while the boys play tag in the front yard. The author contrasts nicely the differences between the “city” and “country” folks. The country children wear plain clothes and no shoes. City kids are teased for being cowardly and not willing to get dirty. In the end, both learn to give and take and respect each others skills and differences.

Junior’s best friend here is named Ben. He encourages Junior to come to the river and fish. Junior realizes his mother will probably say no, so he hesitantly decides to slip away without asking permission. Ben meets up with his friends, Johnny, Dave and Jasper, who he calls “bad company” because they always manage to get him in trouble. The girls, on the other hand, get their mother’s permission to go to the river and enjoy their day without worries.

Karl had not been himself since the nightmare. He sat by himself most of the day. Karl continued to believe that this strange beast had a message for him. Then he decides to go to the river by himself. As night is about to fall, he sees a bolt of lightning flash before him and feels the swaying of the ground beneath him. Will Karl find his way home? Does he succeed in his quest to confront the beast?

The story abruptly shifts back home to the children listening to their mom, Essie, relating one of her nightly stories. She talks of two men locked in a prison cell. The innocent prisoner sees the possibility of being set free someday even though he has no money to defend himself, but the other guilty prisoner is unhappy and mean. Essie’s lesson is that the mean prisoner continued to see only bad things, but the innocent prisoner continued to see promise and beauty outside his window. Before sending the children to bed, they are reminded to look for the good in every situation.

Boys and girls age seven and up will each find elements in the story to their liking. Adults will enjoy the clever interweaving of sound moral lessons intertwined with the charming setting and folklore of Jamaica and the familiar antics of children everywhere.

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