Book Title & Alexandra's Review

The Colossus of Roads by Christina Uss

Middle School


“Traffic is a puzzle with one correct solution. And I’ve got to solve it!”
Rick has been studying maps and traffic patterns for years, and devises solutions to improve Los Angeles’ notoriously terrible traffic that he calls his Snarl Solutions. He has big ideas, but not enough resources – until his artistic friend, Mila, brings him to a Girl Scout meeting.
Every week at Miss Diamond’s art studio, the scouts paint recycled traffic signs with their own designs. The signs will be hung all over Los Angeles to beautify the city with art. But Rick, The Colossus of Roads, has ulterior motives. He will restore the signs to their original glory and find a way to install them strategically to rectify the traffic. Anything can be hung with duct tape!
But of course, it’s not that easy. SPLAT (Start Pedaling, Lessen Automobile Traffic), BLAM (Bike-Loving Amazing Mamas), and the TCD (Traffic Calming Division) have their own methods of curing the city’s dilemma and will undermine Rick’s efforts however they can.
Will Rick be able to clear the notorious traffic problem on Sepulveda Pass in time for his parents to deliver Polish food to the movie studio and land the catering contract they need to keep their company afloat?


Rick’s fascination with traffic patterns was enough to catch my attention. There just aren’t many books about kids with odd interests which is what makes this story so unique. Rick’s enthusiasm for maps and traffic flow patterns stems from his parents Polish catering business that takes them through the crazy streets of Los Angeles and his severe motion sickness that keeps him from traveling anywhere by car. The way Rick’s motion sickness symptoms are described made me want to reach into the book and take away his pain.


This story is full of fun and realistic characters, but there is one, besides Rick, who stands out among the rest. And that character is Rick’s stomach. Yep. Rick’s stomach talks to him. Whether giving encouragement, snappy comments or enthusiasm for food, this vital organ steals the show. I went on Google and learned that motion sickness isn’t caused by anything in the stomach. It’s caused by a disturbance in the inner ear. Nausea in the stomach is a symptom of motion sickness, not the source of the problem. This fact really isn’t important to the story, I just want to share it.


I love the public art aspect of the story. It’s true that art does have the power to brighten someone’s day. These pictures of LA street art certainly made me happy.



Rick doesn’t understand why Miss Diamond and Mila are so enthusiastic about art and others don’t understand Rick’s fascination with traffic patterns and road signs. Both sides might not eye to eye, but they are both passionate about what they do.


Rick’s solutions for improving traffic are affective, but his methods of setting them into place aren’t exactly legal. But at least he’s trying to help people get to where they need to go. The biking group, SPLAT, were trying to get more people biking by making traffic worse and the TCD was trying to get more people to drive slower by driving extra slow in front of the speedsters. SPLAT wants more people biking and the TCD wants people to drive slower to keep the streets safe, but neither of them are really helping the traffic get better. Luckily these groups are able to redeem themselves by being useful in the story’s climax.


While reading this book, I found this TED-Ed video about what causes traffic jams. I hoped that it would help me understand Rick’s road talk, but the video just confused me more. Luckily you don’t have to understand everything Rick’s says to enjoy this story. I’m including a link to the TED-Ed video for anyone who might be interested.


In conclusion, this is a truly original story that everyone should read. And remember, don’t be discouraged by people who don’t understand your interests. There will always be people who will appreciate your talents.


This weeks’ Weird but True Fact about Traffic Jams

A traffic jam in China lasted for more than a week.

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