Puffin Books, 2018
40pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99
Elbow Grease is the smallest monster truck in the Demolition Derby. Even though his brothers Tank, Flash, Pinball and Crash were tougher, faster, smarter and braver, they didn’t intimidate him nor deter him from racing. Even the fact that he was different because he ran on an lithium-ion battery and needed to be recharged every night did not stop him believing in himself and his ability to keep up with his brothers. Because Elbow Grease had gumption, that mixture of strong will and determination to keep on going even when it seemed all was lost.
When Mel the mechanic puts a large poster of a monster truck Grand Prix on the wall, Elbow Grease is determined to compete, regardless of the derision of his brothers. He drove to the Grand Prix by himself, snuck in behind all the others at the starting line and off he went. It soon became obvious that the other trucks had more experience and better technique but Elbow Grease refused to give up. On an on he went until it started to pour and his battery went completely flat…
Inspired by growing up with four older brothers, John Cena has captured the spirit of determination that younger siblings so often have as they strive to keep up, and has created a powerful story about trying new things, resilience, facing fears and obstacles, and doing everything you can to keep going. It’s a lesson in “Of at first you don’t succeed….”
Told with a bare narrative with all the speech in speech bubbles, sometimes the message is less than subtle, but young readers will delight in the bright, bold illustrations that carry the expression and the humour. Some who are familiar with WWE competitors might even recognise Cena from that field and be inspired because of that. In an interview, Cena said, “With ‘Elbow Grease’ and the books to follow, I want to offer kids a fun and engaging way to learn about the power of ambition, dedication, and heart. These concepts have been transformative in my life, from my childhood up to now, and it’s so important to me to pass the positivity on and help our youngest generation see that right mindset is key to achievement,”
Monster trucks appeal to so many little boys that even if they don’t absorb Cena’s message at first, at least they will continue to discover the joy of reading as they find books about the topics that interest them.