Back in March, I entered a contest called Reader’s Favorite. Yesterday was the day they announced the winners on the website. Although the story did not win, it got a great 5-star review that was very encouraging. Here it is. If anyone knows the right publisher, please let me know.r I’d love to see this story come to life as an easy reader book. It’s fiction, and it’s about what goes on inside my head with cerebral palsy. I’d love to see it be used in schools for a disability awareness week. I could write activities to go with the story and teachers could discuss it with the kids. The person who wrote the review, wrote it 3 days after I submitted my story for the contest. Usually, reviews are supposed to take 2 weeks. That says something right there! It’s quite unique just like me! Enjoy! Special thanks to Jessica Frausto for helping me navigate through the many mail routes of Rocky Road Trucking. We had a great time! I can’t wait to go back there!
5 Stars – Congratulations on your 5-star review!
Reviewed By Lesley Jones for Readers’ Favorite
In Rocky Road Trucking by Rachael Benson, imagine if parts of your brain could communicate with each other? Meet the Rocky Road trucker family: Mr MC, his wife Mrs UP, and their three children, Rit, Lit and RFin. They live inside Rachael’s mind and they help her learn new skills. Rachael is a little girl with cerebral palsy, and we follow her as the rocky road truckers work as a team to help her write her name and dress herself for the first time. This book looks at the subject matter of the mind through a disabled child, but in a very unique way using this family of funny characters. The book is both educational and amusing and a great bedtime read for parents and children.
The concept of this book is extraordinary and something I have never come across before. It is extremely informative about the workings of the mind and the different parts of the brain, but at the same time explains it in a way that is easily understood by children. This would make a perfect bedtime story for a child with cerebral palsy or equally a child without. It will give young readers a clear understanding that there are children who are different to themselves. There are children who have to work that little bit harder to achieve things they take for granted such as dressing themselves, reading and writing. This book would make an excellent addition to any school bookshelf. I love a book that can teach children tolerance and kindness to others, and this book achieves that goal perfectly.
“Okay everybody here’s your GPS. Try to follow directions and don’t get lost. We got a lot of messages to deliver. Now trucks hit the road. Oh, I’m so sorry. Let me introduce myself. I’m the Motor Cortex but you can call me Mr. MC for short. I write the messages that tell certain body parts to work. That’s the part of the brain that plans and controls voluntary movements.” said Mr. MC.
““I’m his wife Mrs. Up. I deliver the messages by using a group of trucks called the upper motor neurons. We live inside Rachael Benson’s head. We’re in charge of a company called Rocky Road Trucking. We have three kids named Rit, Lit, and RFin.” replied Mrs. Up.
“Hey mom, did you call me?” asked Rit.
“Who said that?” Mrs. Up asked.
“It was me, mom. Hi everybody I’m called Rit for short. My full name is Right Inner Thigh I control the messages that help Rachael’s inner Thigh work.” yelled out Rit.
“I’m his brother Lit. That’s short for the left inner thigh. I get the messages that tell the muscles in Rachael’s left thigh to work.” interjected Lit.
“My name is RFin. I’m the youngest in the family I help deliver the messages to Rachael’s right fingers.” announced RFin.
“We’re a family owned business that delivers the mail. We don’t call ourselves Rocky Road Trucking for not+hing. Managing brain activity is a tough job but somebody’s got to do it. Some days it can be really tough sorting through the mail.” replied Mrs. Up.
“It wouldn’t be so difficult if Lit would just listen to the messages from you mom.” said Rit sarcastically.
“Me? What about you Rit? You’re always trying to help me do a task when I want to do something alone. When I get a message to help Rachael keep her knees apart you’re always trying to get in on the act.” whined Lit.
“You do the same to me.” Rit shouted
“Hey kids that’s enough.” snapped Mrs. Up.
“Thank you dear. Anyway, as I was saying, I’m Mr. MC. I’m the main center of the family. I make the decisions around here and everyone else is supposed to follow my directions. I was made differently as a result of the lack of oxygen while Rachael was in her mother’s womb. Rachael can do a lot but everything takes time and effort. Often I write the wrong messages for my wife to give to the trucks, which send mixed messages to the family. The trucks travel down what humans call pyramidal tracts. Around here, we call them highways and streets because we’re trucks. Since Rachael has cerebral palsy, everyday tasks like walking and getting dressed are difficult.” explained Mr. MC.
“That’s right honey.” agreed Mrs. Up. “I was made differently also. This is why some of our trucks have a hard time getting the messages to some of our other family members. It takes a large family to get Rachael’s body parts moving. The trucks taking the messages have to take a detour and find another way around because the main highway is closed. It’s difficult to find a road that’s open making it take longer for Rachael to do everyday tasks. Rachael is amazing. She doesn’t let anything stop her. If I hear a loud noise like a horn coming from one of those cars humans drive, it can make the trucks jump, which mixes up the messages and causes a car pileup and makes Rachael jump. With CP which is also known as cerebral palsy, certain movements can be involuntary.”
“Yeah, those loud horns on the highways cause a lot of problems. Whenever Rachael jumps, we all fall right on top of each other. I don’t know why humans have horns in the first place. Why don’t they just get rid of them?” questioned Rit.
“Good question.” answered Lit.
“We’ll always get the message there at some point. It may just be a matter of time. Snail mail is better than no mail at all. Right dear?” asked Mrs. Up.
“That’s right. These days the mail moves a lot quicker. I remember when Rachael was little. The kids were so stiff the mail could hardly move at all or her muscles were shall we say. There was so much traffic it took forever to get the messages delivered to the right place.” acknowledged Mr. MC.
“Yeah those were really tough days Dad. I’m glad they’re over.” RFin replied as he breathed a sigh of relief.
“Me too. One of the first things Rachael learned to do was roll over.” Mr. MC. recalled. “She went to something the humans call physical therapy which they say is designed to help the muscles learn how to relax. We tried to relax but the highways were crazy and traffic just would not move. Finally, the day came when she was rolling all over the place and giggling. I love hearing Rachael laugh. She’s always such a happy person!”
“I agree dear.” confirmed Mrs. Up. “After that the next message that came through was to figure out how to get Rachael up on her hands and knees. They had her lie on a pillow and pick up toys on a mat. Rachael also played with something the humans called widgets. They were white, made out of styrofoam, and they were shaped like little peanuts. Usually, humans use them for delivering packages in boxes at the post office, but in Rachael’s case, the physical therapist used them as a toy to try to help Rachael’s body learn to move around more freely because she was so stiff. The therapist would put her in a big brown box and it looked like she was swimming; only she still couldn’t move as freely in the box as she could in water. The widgets made a funny squishy sound. Again she was laughing. I don’t think Rachael realized she was working. “
“Finally the kids got the message that said: ‘Up on hands and knees.’” said Mrs. Up.
“I remember mom. I said ‘Here it is. We were all so excited. “Here it is!”’ RFin rejoiced. The whole family had a party.”
“Yes we did. With cerebral palsy, things can take so long, that learning to do the small stuff calls for a celebration.” Mrs. Up said excitedly.
“The key with cerebral palsy is sending out those messages to the kids and making sure they’re not forgotten.” Mr. MC explained.” I remember when Rachael first started going to physical therapy. It was not easy! She started with a private physical therapist that she saw twice a week. They were hoping Rachael would be able to walk without what humans call a walker but it didn’t happen. There was a huge bridge that collapsed and we could never get passed it. The physical therapist came up with exercises to help her strengthen her trunk muscles.”
“Hey, wait a minute dad.” said RFin. “Do you think the kids here would know what trunk muscles are?”
“Oh, you’re right, son. I do need to explain that.” said Mr. MC. “Your trunk muscles are your muscles in the back that help you sit up straight and stay balanced. He did things like have her sit on a big round orange ball and sit in the center. She had to stay in the center or she’d fall off. Boy was that a challenge.”
“It sure was!” Mrs. Up agreed. “As I was driving down the road I remember thinking, ‘Please don’t push the truck off the road. Stay! Stay! Woahhh!’ Rachael’s body would go back and forth.”
“I remember that too mom. We had some pretty bumpy rides back then Wearing seat belts didn’t’ help much. I remember getting tossed from one end of the truck to the other. Many times, I landed on the floor. I remember thinking, Yee-haw! What a wild ride it was!” recalled Lit.
“Yes it was. I’m surprised we’re all still together. No one in the family has gone missing.” said Rit as he giggled.
“Despite all the physical therapy she was getting her body was still very wobbly and the muscles were still very stiff.” remarked Mrs. Up. “Many times the right messages could not get up to the kids because of the stiffness in Rachael’s body. She had what doctors called spasticity, which means muscle tightness. The messages couldn’t even get through so we could deliver them. We were stuck! All the roads were closed and we couldn’t get anywhere. It was so frustrating! It took forever to get through.”
“Yes it did.” Mr. MC. admitted. “Things stayed pretty much the same. Life was pretty hard until the day her doctor told her parents about a surgery called Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy. The doctor said, ‘There’s a good chance that this will help Rachael walk independently but there’s no guarantee.’ When they did the surgery, they targeted her lower back. They cut the nerve fibers in her spinal cord that were causing the spasticity. Hoping that maybe Rit, Lit, and RFin, could help loosen Rachael’s legs. If that happened, it would mean she would be able to walk independently.
“The doctors did the surgery and then I looked for the right message to deliver to the kids that tells Rachael to walk but I never found it.” sighed Mrs. Up.
“Yeah, that was disappointing Mom.” agreed RFin. “But let’s look at some of the good things. The surgery did help us deliver the message to our cousins CNSs so that Rachael could hold her head up. By the way kids, CNS stands for Central Nervous System. It’s the main pathway that communicates with the rest of the body.”
“Yes.” said Mrs. UP. ”For the first time Rachael was finally able to sit straight up and focus on the teacher. Then she could be mainstreamed into a regular class at school with the help of a one on one aide to keep her up with the class. She managed A’s and B’s only a few C’s in the real tough subjects like math or science. Once Rachael could hold her head up, the family and I celebrated. Oh, what adventures this family would take her on now! This was an exciting day!”
“Remember the next thing we tried to help Rachael do was write her name. This happened in the first grade at Andasol Avenue School in Miss. Wolf’s class. It all started as a typical day….” said Rit.
“What do you mean typical Rit?” asked Lit “Things are never ordinary around here.”
“Okay, you’re right.” replied Rit. “I meant as typical as our day gets around here. This day was about to be really unusual.
Rachael’s teacher Miss. Wolf said to the class. ‘Good morning class.’
‘Good morning Miss. Wolf.’ Rachael responded in unison with the rest of the class.
‘Today we’re going to learn how to write our names. Everyone please get out a yellow sharpened number two pencil and write the capital letter of your first name.’ said Miss. Wolf.
Usually Rachael just pecks at the black keyboard on a machine called a typewriter with one finger. We all thought, ‘Wouldn’t that be great if she could write her own name?’”
“Oh, I remember that day.” replied Mrs. Up. “I tried to encourage everyone. ‘Let’s see if we can help her do this.”
“That was a good idea Mom. But sadly, it didn’t work.” said Rit.
“Yeah, I tried to send the right message but the letters would still come out very sloppy. Rachael practiced for a month and guess what? We finally found the right mail connection and were able to help her write the name Rachael in all capital letters. Back then all I could think about was now the next step is to learn to write a capital R at the beginning and a lowercase letter for all the other letters in her name.” remembered Mr. MC.
Mrs. Up continued, “Unfortunately, even though Rachael did learn to write her own name, we still weren’t able to help her learn to write quick enough to keep up with the class. Bummer! We’ll have to work harder to help Rachael learn to write her name with the lower case letters. Rachael’s got determination. She can do it! It’s just not happening right now.”
“That’s right dear,” said Mr. MC. “It’s just a matter of time… I hope! Remember when Rachael also went to occupational therapy where we worked a lot on fine motor skills like writing and getting dressed. One of the biggest things the therapist tried to work with Rachael on was dressing skills. Rachael never had any trouble getting her shoes off but getting them on was another story. Through the years the therapist tried to teach Rachael to use many things that were supposed to help her such as a shoehorn. It’s made of plastic. It’s supposed to help her slide the shoe on her foot. First, the therapist put powder on the shoehorn, and then Rachael would pick it up. Rachael would slide her foot into the shoehorn, and then the shoe. The problem is Rachael has very little feeling in the bottom of her feet. It’s one of the side effects of the surgery. We lost a mail connection there. That makes it hard for us to help Rachael push her own feet in the bottom of a shoe. A piece of plastic didn’t help much. It ended being just one more frustrating obstacle!”
“Oh, I know. UGH!” screamed Mrs. Up. “The therapist also tried to teach Rachael to pull her own pants up and down. She had Rachael get down on the ground and roll side to side to get her pants down. Every time Rachael did that the pants would go all the way down past her knees and then she couldn’t get the pants back on. How frustrating! We were never able to find the right mail connection in therapy but the upper motor neurons found it many years later when I was searching through old piles of mail.”
“I remember that mom,” recalled RFin. “Rachael was standing in the bathroom with her walker by herself .I helped her use the muscles in her right hand behind her and slowly pulled down her right pant leg. Then she did the same thing on the left. She did it! She finally did it!”
“RFin, do you know what that means? If we found that connection, maybe we can find other mail connections. Maybe we will find the connection so Rachael can put on her own shoe. Maybe we can find the connections that would help her get dressed by herself instead of having someone else do it for her.” Lit happily replied.
“Maybe it’s just a matter of time.” added Rit with excitement. “You never know what’s hidden in the mail at Rocky Road Trucking! This place is full of surprises! I can’t wait to see what we can help Rachael do next!”