Aug. 16th is National Roller Coaster Day. Although there are probably no greeting cards to mark this event, there’s no denying the popularity of the roller coaster. There are more than 1,400 roller coasters in the United States and several more are in the process of being built. And coaster enthusiasts have formed groups with thousands of members.
Many of us picture wooden roller coasters as the oldest versions of the thrill ride, but the original coasters were actually made of ice. In the 17th century, hills of ice were created in and around St. Petersburg for the Russian upper class to slide on. There is some dispute as to who actually created the first coasters with wheels. Some historians believe the first was in Russia while others argue it was built in France in the early 19th century. The first American roller coaster is thought to be the Switchback Railway constructed by La Marcus Thompson in 1884 at Coney Island in New York.
The library has dozens of titles on the subject of roller coasters, and here are just a few:
“Amusement Park Rides” by Martin Easdown is available as an e-book from the library’s “OverDrive” database. Easdown traces the history of the roller coaster from its beginnings through its subsequent influence in the growth of the amusement park concept around the world.
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In our children’s DVD section you will find “Rip-Roaring Roller Coasters and All Access to Fun” produced by Popular Mechanics for Kids. In this DVD you’ll experience some of the fastest coasters in the country and also tour Universal Studios.
Although the title may be a little off-putting to some, “Roller Coasters, or, I Had So Much Fun I almost Puked,” by Nick Cook is a very comprehensive and entertaining look at the history of the roller coaster with vintage photos and fun facts.
Not all of the titles about roller coasters will be found in the travel or theme park section of nonfiction though. Some are also located in the math and technology section. Why? Consider the amount of engineering and knowledge of physics involved in the design of some of the steepest, loopiest and scariest roller coasters. Check out “Using Math to Design a Roller Coaster,” by Hilary Koll. This book presents activities and problem-solving challenges related to the design of roller coasters.
Have you tried the library database, Hoopla, yet? With your library card barcode and PIN, Hoopla provides access to thousands of e-books, movies, music, television shows, and comic books. Among them, you will find “Roller Coasters” an e-book from the “Amazing Structures” series written by Rebecca Pettiford. This title is geared towards tweens (ages eight-12), and features vibrant photos and text explaining the most common types of coasters and how they’re engineered for safety while at the same time providing a terrifying g-force experience.
For preschoolers, check out Nancy Carlson’s “Harriet and the Roller Coaster.” The book is as much about conquering one’s fears as it is about roller coasters. Children will enjoy the whimsical illustrations of this story as Harriet overcomes her fears at the amusement park.
Speaking Volumes, written by Manatee County Public Library System staff members, is published each Sunday. Mary Lysaght is the Assistant Supervisor at the Rocky Bluff branch. Access the library at www.mymanatee.org/library.html.