Roller-Coast­er Grand­ma: The Amaz­ing Sto­ry of Dr. Ruth

Dr. Ruth K. Wes­t­heimer and Pierre Lehu; Mark Sim­mons, illus.

  • Review
By – January 12, 2018

This com­ic book geared at pre-teen and teen read­ers tells the fas­ci­nat­ing life sto­ry of renowned Ger­man Jew­ish edu­ca­tor and psy­chol­o­gist Dr. Ruth Wes­t­heimer. The frame­work of this biog­ra­phy is a fic­tion­al trip through an amuse­ment park with her grandchildren.

Dr. Ruth’s biog­ra­phy is full of dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions, some over­come by luck, some by deter­mi­na­tion and dili­gence. Out of these pages comes an amaz­ing role mod­el. Her father was arrest­ed by the Nazis; her moth­er and grand­moth­er man­aged to save her by putting her on a Kinder­trans­port to an orphan­age in Switzer­land. There she learned in secret, as the orphan­age only edu­cat­ed boys. After the war, Wes­t­heimer went to Israel where she worked on a kib­butz and trained as a sniper with the Hag­ganah. After immi­grat­ing to Amer­i­ca, she worked as a maid, stud­ied, became a col­lege pro­fes­sor, and lat­er worked as a radio host. Her Ger­man accent, which became part of her trade­mark, com­bined with her insight and humor, gained her pop­u­lar­i­ty. Proud as she is of her career, she is even proud­er of her family.

The book’s illus­tra­tions effec­tive­ly sep­a­rate the time peri­ods by using sepia for the past ver­sus full col­or for the present. Infor­ma­tive and upbeat, this is a time­ly immi­grant biography.

Ellen G. Cole, a retired librar­i­an of the Levine Library of Tem­ple Isa­iah in Los Ange­les, is a past judge of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Awards and a past chair­per­son of that com­mit­tee. She is a co-author of the AJL guide, Excel­lence in Jew­ish Children’s Lit­er­a­ture. Ellen is the recip­i­ent of two major awards for con­tri­bu­tion to Juda­ic Librar­i­an­ship, the Fan­ny Gold­stein Mer­it Award from the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries and the Dorothy Schroed­er Award from the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. She is on the board of AJLSC.

Discussion Questions