Reviewed by Antonella Townsend
A positive life message just blasts off each page in John Cena’s Elbow Grease vs. Motozilla. No point being subtle with the truth, when the truth is a vital piece of information that all young children need to know: persistence equals improvement, a well thought out plan and teamwork brings success, and, believe in yourself! Elbow Grease vs. Motozilla, delivers this message in a 26 cm x 26 cm hardback book of vibrant colour. The story is presented in an amusing easy-to-read text, illustrated by Howard McWilliam, and is the second edition of the ‘Elbow Grease’ series.
Elbow Grease, as his name suggests, has to work hard to keep up with his four brothers, who are stars of the Demolition Derby. They are big and strong and talented. Elbow Grease is small and can only claim to be the best at steady improvement. But Elbow Grease has a positive mindset, he is a thinker and planner, which wins the day when faced with a powerful competitor.
The greatly dreaded and fierce Motozilla is to be a contestant in the next Demolition Derby and little Elbow Grease comes up with a plan to defeat the metal fire-breathing monster. The answer of course is teamwork. The brothers join together under the direction of Elbow Grease and an action packed battle ensues. Hard work and teamwork win the day. This explosive narrative is guaranteed to keep young readers engaged, while receiving helpful life-messages at the same time.
Elbow Grease echoes John Cena’s own life, he also had four brothers and life was a competition as to who could beat up the rest. Cena went on to be a wrestling champion of some note, and then to acting and now bringing life-affirming messages regarding masculine life. So yes, this book is written with boys in mind, although I feel there are relevant messages for girls too. Thankfully the Demolition Derby mechanic that helps save the day is female.
It is Cena’s goal to teach young children about the importance of a healthy mindset, the power of ambition, dedication, and heart; Cena believes that these concepts have been the key to his success.
Howard McWilliam’s illustrations are a powerful part of this book; his drawings match the subject matter, exploding from the page, keeping young readers fascinated and focused.
By John Cena
Illustrations by Howard McWilliam
Penguin Random House
Pp. 40; $19.99