A Kirkus Reviews Best Middle Grade Book of 2019
“A big-hearted story that’s as sweet as it is awesome.” —R.J. Palacio, author of Wonder
In the tradition of Wonder and Out of My Mind, this big-hearted middle grade debut tells the story of an irrepressible girl with cerebral palsy whose life takes an unexpected turn when she moves to a new town.
Ellie’s a girl who tells it like it is. That surprises some people, who see a kid in a wheelchair and think she’s going to be all sunshine and cuddles. The thing is, Ellie has big dreams: She might be eating Stouffer’s for dinner, but one day she’s going to be a professional baker. If she’s not writing fan letters to her favorite celebrity chefs, she’s practicing recipes on her well-meaning, if overworked, mother.
But when Ellie and her mom move so they can help take care of her ailing grandpa, Ellie has to start all over again in a new town at a new school. Except she’s not just the new kid—she’s the new kid in the wheelchair who lives in the trailer park on the wrong side of town. It all feels like one challenge too many, until Ellie starts to make her first-ever friends. Now she just has to convince her mom that this town might just be the best thing that ever happened to them!
|Publisher:||Atheneum Books for Young Readers|
|Product dimensions:||5.60(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)|
|Age Range:||10 - 14 Years|
About the Author
Jamie Sumner is the author of Roll with It and Tune It Out. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other publications. She loves stories that celebrate the grit and beauty in all kids. She is also the mother of a son with cerebral palsy and has written extensively about parenting a child with special needs. She and her family live in Nashville, Tennessee. Visit her at Jamie-Sumner.com.
Read an Excerpt
Roll with It
It’s kind of hard to watch The Great British Bake Off over plates of Stouffer’s lasagna. Especially since it’s been in the freezer awhile—the edges are dry and crusty. But this is about all the cooking Mom chooses to do. She says she likes to leave the fancy stuff to me. Really, though, she just doesn’t have the energy to think about fixing anything that doesn’t come with directions on the box.
Our TV is so old and tiny that I have to lean in to see what Mary Berry is pursing her lips about. The bakers are making English muffins, and she’s giving the stink eye to the redheaded guy who didn’t let his dough rise enough. If I were on the show, Mary wouldn’t have to tell me how long those muffins need to rise. Any fool with a Betty Crocker cookbook or Google knows to let it double. I pick at a shriveled string of cheese on my plate and imagine what I’d say if I could send her a note across the ocean.
Dear Ms. Berry,
As an aspiring baker over here in Tennessee, I’d like to tell you how much I love every single one of your recipes, but especially your Cappuccino Coffee Cake. I made it once for my mom, and she said both coffee and cake would never be the same again. I think she meant that in a good way. Also, would you mind sharing your secret to a good scone? Because down here all we’ve got are buttermilk biscuits—
Mom’s phone rings and now I’m left wishing I had enough sugar to try another batch of scones. The only ones I ever made came out so hard, you had to dunk them in milk to take a bite. Mom hits pause right as Mary is about to call out the top three English muffins. I already know which one will win. It’s all about symmetry. They have to look exactly the same.
Mom sets her food on the coffee table. She’s barely touched it, but she picks up her phone and walks into the hallway. She says “hello” like the conversation has already run an hour long. It has to be Mema.
I saw off another bite of lasagna with my knife and review what I’m going to say if the phone rings again and it’s about what went down at school today. But there’s not a single scenario where I don’t get grounded. Grown-up trumps kid like paper beats rock.
Mom leans back in from the hallway and mouths, “Chew, chew, chew,” like I’m five and still in feeding therapy.
I point at the phone. “Talk to your mother.”
Depending on how Grandpa’s been doing lately, this could either be a really quick conversation or a really long one. I take my chances and hit play.
I’m right about the muffins.
When Mom still hasn’t come in by the credits, I push back from the table and roll into the hallway.
She’s sitting on the floor with her legs stuck out and the phone in her lap.
“How bad was it?”
“He locked your grandmother out of the house and called 911 to report a burglary.”
“Did the cops show up?”
“No. He’s done it enough times, she reprogrammed the emergency button on the house phone to go to her cell.”
“Not smart enough to remember to put out a new Hide-a-Key. She had to get the neighbor to break a window.”
I can picture it: Grandpa whispering into the yellow phone on the wall about voices and eyes looking in at him from the dark. Poor Mema. I wonder which window they had to bust. I lock the brakes on my chair and hold out a hand. Mom takes it and stands up with a grunt.
“Ellie, you’re twelve. Just wait until you’re my age. You’ll make all kinds of noises you never thought you’d make.”
She tries on a smile, but it slides off. I hate it when she does that, pretends everything’s rosy because she thinks I can’t handle it. But I don’t say anything, just grab her plate off the coffee table in the living room and roll on into the kitchen. I don’t know the last time Mom ate a meal all the way through. I pop her lasagna into the microwave. If it’s not Mema on the line, it’s Lauren, my aide, calling to tattle on me, which—I check the clock—might still happen tonight, with my luck.
I’m not a bad kid, really I’m not.
It’s just that anybody who sees a girl in a wheelchair thinks she’s going to be sunshine and cuddles.
Sorry for having an opinion.
Sorry for not thanking my lucky stars you get to follow me to the toilet three times a day, and sorry for not loving the fact that someone else has to carry my tray to the table at lunch and that I have to wait at the back of the bus, coughing in the cloud of exhaust, while the wheelchair lift goes down as slow as Christmas.
I’m sorry for needing a little space.
But mostly I’m sorry I let the whole being-stuck-in-a-wheelchair thing get to me today. I wish I could have brushed it off like usual. Then I wouldn’t be in this mess.
Mom wanders in from the hallway and slumps down at the kitchen table. The microwave beeps, and I plop the lasagna in front of her. It slides across the plate like a wet sock, probably tastes like one too by now. She’s rubbing her fingertips in a slow circle on the side of her head. I wish she would stop doing that—it makes me worry she’s going to go bald. I push the plate forward with one finger until it’s about to topple off into her lap. She picks up a fork.
“Chew, chew, chew,” I say, and roll into my bedroom to finish my algebra.
It’s almost midnight and I still haven’t started my math. I forgot to close the blinds, and the streetlight outside is casting an orangey glow across the walls, but I’m too tired to drag myself into my chair and deal with it. The chair’s sitting at a right angle to the bed, where Mom always puts it in case I need to get up in the night. Right angles. See, I don’t even need the math homework. My current skills are greater than or equal to whatever problem set is due tomorrow.
I could probably use some solid pluses and minuses to distract me right now.
I can’t stop thinking about what happened at lunch. It so wasn’t a big deal until everybody made it a big deal. I mean, I get it. Lauren’s whole entire job is to chaperone me from place to place, so when I pull a runner and disappear, it kinda makes her look like she’s slacking.
But Emma Claire wasn’t there today. She’s basically the one friend I have at school. She also has CP. Birds of a feather and all that. But she only has a limp and can still play soccer. I tell her she’s got a “touch of CP” and I’ve got the whole bucketful. We’re not close close. But at least we sit together. And when she’s gone, it’s just me in my cone of silence in the middle of the cafeteria.
So there I was, sitting at the end of the row of tables and away from everybody else like a doorstop, and it was loud, and not the kind of loud you can tune out. And it was chili day. The whole place smelled like meat chunks. Barf. So I packed up the sandwich I’d made with the cranberry relish and goat cheese, which Mom says isn’t a sandwich because it doesn’t have meat, and left. I just put it all on my lap and rolled on out and down the back hallway that leads to the exit doors by the gym.
I sat in a little ray of sunlight that snuck past the dumpsters outside and finished my lunch, and then the bell rang and . . . I just needed another minute, was all. Except when Lauren found me, I might have been dozing in the sun spot and it might have been after too much “travel time” had passed for me to blame it on the chair. But I wasn’t trying to skip class. Really.
The thing is, kids skip all the time, and yeah, they get in trouble. But nobody freaks out about it like they do with me because I’m a health risk. And okay, yes, it was maybe a teensy bit antisocial to go eat in a corner by the dumpsters, but sometimes it’s all just too much. I get tired of bearing witness to everybody else’s normal.
I never got sent to time-out when I was little. I think the teachers couldn’t bring themselves to lock me and my wheels in the corner. But I wish I could now. I wish I could just declare a giant TIME-OUT from school and people and take a long nap in the sun.
I think about The Great British Bake Off again and how happy the winner looked, holding up his English muffins like a doof next to tiny Mary Berry. I bet no one bothers Mary when she wants to eat alone. I bet she dines like a queen. One day I will write her a real letter and ask her to tea. I could handle company if it were Mary. We would sit in easy silence and let the food speak for us.
Two days later I’m at school, sitting out front by the curb and waiting for Mom to pick me up. It’s freezing. I don’t care what they say about winters in the South; it still feels like a bucket of ice water thrown over you every time you go outside.
“You want your jacket, honey?”
Lauren stands next to me with one hand on the back of my wheelchair. I shake my head, don’t look at her. I’ve got my backpack in my lap with my jacket inside. If I wanted it, I’d get it. I’m working too hard not to be nervous about this appointment to have any room left to make small talk with Lauren. It’s lunchtime and this is usually her “Ellie break,” but since the “runaway” incident, she hasn’t given me an inch of space. I can tell she’s ready to go inside to the teachers’ lounge, down a Lean Cuisine, and check her IG. I hate it when she calls me “honey.” She’s probably twenty-five at most. I wish we could just wait together in the quiet.
“We need to talk about what happened the other day, Ellie.”
I look straight ahead. I can feel her hands on her hips. She already called Mom yesterday, just like I knew she would. Mom cut all my screen time for a week. A WEEK. I wanted to explain myself, but I couldn’t get the words out. I’d rather lose screen time than tell Mom the truth and have her think I’m “not coping,” as she likes to say.
“Ellie, honey, you cannot wander off by yourself after lunch without checking in with me.”
“I was going to class.”
“I don’t believe science is by the gym, last time I checked.”
She should save the teacher tone for the teachers. I wheel around to face her and tap my forehead. “Oh, you know, little ol’ me just gets turned around sometimes.”
“Ellie, enough. You know your educational plan requires that I accompany you from the bus, between classes, and to and from the restroom.”
“So you’re saying I’m in trouble for . . . going to my class?”
That’s the thing about needing an extra-special plan just to go to school. Sometimes it helps. And sometimes it’s the leash you get tangled in.
For a second she almost looks embarrassed, and I start to feel a little bad for giving her the guilt trip when she’s not even the one who makes the rules. But then Mom flies up in the van and throws the automatic doors open like she’s at the Daytona 500. She’s an English teacher up at the high school and has to use her planning period to take me to my doctor’s appointments. It’s always a race across town to the children’s hospital. But we’ve gotten only one ticket. The other times the cop felt sorry for us. On occasion this whole “crippled kid” thing works in my favor.
Today we’re on our way to see the neurologist, the “head doctor” who reads my brain waves. It’s supposed to be science-y, but it feels a little like visiting a psychic and watching her pretend to tell my fortune. I’m trying my best not to pay attention to the worry that’s doing laps in my stomach. This appointment is a big one. It might really tell my future, and I’m not sure I’m ready to hear it.
“Where is your jacket?”
Despite the rush, Mom has all the time in the world to look me over while I’m riding the lift that folds down onto the curb like a hand opening and carries me up and inside the van. It’s like the world’s slowest amusement park ride. But she doesn’t wait for an answer, because I’m finally up now and locked in. We’re already going to be late. And I’m secretly glad. If it’s bad news, it’s bad news a few minutes later. I watch Lauren shrink and finally disappear out the back window.
Mom keeps checking her phone. I reach as far as I can and grab it from her.
“No texting while driving, young lady.”
“I wasn’t texting. I was about to text.”
“Same difference. Same eyes off the road. Text who?”
Mom doesn’t answer.
I don’t know why I ask. I know who. Dad. Dad the lawyer who never calls or comes to anything because he’s busy with his new family. Mom says he hopes to run for mayor someday. I bet he practices acceptance speeches in the mirror. The therapist Mom made me see for a while when I turned ten and starting ignoring Dad’s phone calls and emails said I have “unresolved issues.” She said I needed to learn to “express the hurt” if I ever wanted to have a “meaningful relationship” with him. But honestly, it’s been Mom and me for so long, I think I’d rather just leave him to his bright and shiny new family.
“He might make it this time,” she says eventually as we pull into the parking garage and the radio goes fuzzy.
Mom and I both know Dad won’t be here. Even though this is kind of a huge appointment, epic maybe if it pans out the way we want, he still won’t show. He desn’t do doctors or hospitals or sickness of any kind—which explains the whole leaving us when I was still a not-toddling toddler. Whenever he visits, I make a point to lean over and drool a little. This would be one of the “defense mechanisms” the therapist mentioned.
The doors of the hospital whoosh open, and a blast of heat smacks me in the face. The elevator to the doctor’s office tower smells like hand sanitizer and toilets, and it makes me wish I were back in class, which is saying something. A family sits under the television in the corner. The man has a long beard, and the woman wears a bonnet. Their little girl has neon leg braces, and she fiddles with their Velcro under her skirts. I want to tell the girl that the braces aren’t as bad as they seem, that she’ll get used to them. And I would tell her, if my voice weren’t caught on a tangle of nerves.
I stare at the TV for distraction.
“It’s always PAW Patrol.”
“You used to love PAW Patrol.”
“Yeah, when I was, like, five.”
“Well, there are a lot of little kids here.”
“Which leads me to my point.”
“Why do I have to go to the little-kid doctor? It’s me and a thousand seven-year-olds in pajamas with their Build-A-Bears.”
“When you turn eighteen, you can go wherever you like.”
“Six years and counting.”
“Just don’t count too fast, okay?” Mom whispers, and untucks the end of my ponytail from my sweatshirt. Her hand is shaking, and I lean into it for a second like a cat until it stills.
She looks back down at her phone. Still no text from Dad. I’m half thinking about what comes next and half still mad over my conversation with Lauren earlier, when the door opens and a nurse steps out. “Cowan?”
Both of our heads snap up like we’re in trouble. We take a deep breath at the same time, like we’re going underwater, and then I wheel forward and Mom gets up to follow.
The exam room has planes on the walls in primary colors and a train rug on the floor. Who thinks this stuff up? Like making it look like a nursery means we don’t know what goes down in here? Needles and tape and cold hands and stethoscopes . . . and hours and hours of endless waiting. I get my phone out to Snapchat Emma Claire so I won’t just watch the clock. And she understands the doctor’s office torture—the jangly nerves and ticktock tediousness. I peek over at Mom to see if she’s going to get on me for being on my phone, but she either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care. But miracle upon miracle, before I can even hit the app, the door opens.
“Hello, Mrs. Cowan and . . .” The doctor pauses to look at her chart. “And Lily.”
“It’s Ellie,” I say.
“And it’s Ms. Cowan,” Mom adds, but I don’t think the doctor hears her, or cares.
“Well, it’s nice to meet you, Ellie. I’m Dr. Reardon.”
I can tell she doesn’t like my nickname. When I was little and not strong enough yet to get my words to come out right, I couldn’t say my own name. “Lily” came out “Ellie.” It stuck. I’m not going to explain it to her.
“Ellie, I’ve been reviewing your charts and the most recent EEG.”
The EEG is a readout of brain waves, and if you squint at it, it looks just like the ocean with peaks and dips. I glance over at Mom, and she’s holding her purse tight to her chest like a little old lady on the bus. These appointments wind her up. She always thinks they’re going to be doom and gloom. Storms at sea. And this one is the big reevaluation, the chance to see if I’m still as seizure-y as I used to be. I’m not gonna lie, I’m a little wound up about it myself. I wish I had something to do with my hands, something to hug, like my old stuffed bear I used to take to all the doctor visits when I was little. We named him Carl, after the main character from the movie Up, because by the time I had learned to speak, I’d already rubbed his ears bald. He looked exactly like a little old man.
“And it looks like there’s been no abnormal activity in . . .” Long pause as the doctor flips through pages and pushes her glasses up her nose. “Almost six years.” Five years, two hundred and seven days, I think, but who’s counting?
Mom lets out a long sigh and slumps down a little in her chair. I kind of sag forward too and prop my elbows on my armrests. It’s like the good news chased out the worry that was keeping me upright. I can see Mom remembering the fevers and the shakes and the ambulance rides from the seizures. That part’s all a big blur to me. But the fear, like listening for the storm you know is coming, that I remember. I rock back and forth on my wheels, ready to get this show on the road. I’ve been telling Mom for years she doesn’t have to baby me, and now I have proof.
“I think we’re safe to discontinue all medication at this point, Lily—sorry—Ellie. It seems you have outgrown the seizures, as we’d hoped.” The doctor waits for . . . what? Smiles maybe? Claps on the back like it’s a job well done? I’m not sure, but when neither Mom nor I say anything, she stands and opens the door. Awkward. She doesn’t understand that there’s been mostly sickness and pain for us in this place. We don’t know what to do with happy news in this setting.
“Is there anything you need?” she says, rubbing her hands with sanitizer, ready to get to the next in line.
They have to ask this. It’s how we got insurance to help us pay for my wheels and the stander that looks like a hospital bed turned on its end. Just one note from the doctor and it becomes a “medical necessity.” I hate the stander. It takes ten minutes to get me up and strapped into it, and then, you guessed it, I have to just stand there for, like, an hour. There’s a tray so I can read or do homework or whatever, but all I ever do is watch the clock. It’s supposed to make me stronger, but I don’t buy it. I think it’s somebody’s practical joke.
“No, thank you. We’re all right,” Mom says a little shakily, and we watch the doctor leave.
“All right, all right, all right,” I say to her back as we roll down the hall. “Right as right can be. Right as rain, thank you, ma’am.”
“Don’t be snarky with the doctor.”
“Why? She can’t hear, or if she can, she won’t remember. We never see the same one twice.”
“That’s not the point.”
“What is the point?” I say as we get in the elevator to head back to the van to drive back to school to live the other half of this already long day.
“The point is politeness. The point is courtesy. The point,” she says, then pauses, “is that we’ve just been told you are seizure-free and that is a miracle.”
I let that sink in—the idea of a miracle. You think of it like something you’d see on one of those evangelical TV shows—like if I’d suddenly jumped up out of the wheelchair and started walking while a choir sang “hallelujah.” But I guess Mom’s right. I guess you can have invisible miracles too, brain waves finally smoothing out and leaving me on a calm sea.
Neither of us says anything as she loads me into the van. When we hit the interstate, she runs the cuff of her sweater under her eyes.
“Are you crying?”
“Hush. I’m trying to keep my eyes on the road.”
Later that night at home, I wheel out into the hall and lean way over to make sure there’s no light under Mom’s door. It’s closer to morning than night, and even though I have school tomorrow, there’s one more thing I need to do that’s more important than sleep.
I roll as quietly as I can into the kitchen and use the light on my phone to sift through the bottom shelf of the cabinet closest to the sink. Tylenol, Advil, allergy meds, antacids, multivitamins, probiotics, and iron supplements. I have the medicine cabinet of an eighty-year-old woman. But I rattle past all that for the big, dark bottle with the childproof lid. It’s sticky around the edges, and it takes a turn or two to get the cap off. The fake grape scent hits me like liquefied Nerds. It’s why I never choose the grape Popsicle in the pack.
I roll over to the sink and hold it up like I’m about to take a swig. It’s almost two-thirds full. That’s like a hundred and fifty bucks, almost a month’s worth of medicine. I very slowly pour it down the sink. The purple finds the drain in a thick swirl. Twice a day since I was six. Twice a day Mom had to use the dropper to feed me these antiseizure meds like a baby bird. But after today’s all clear, never again. I shake it until there’s not a single drop left and then go back down the hall, shimmying my shoulders to a Beyoncé song no one but me can hear.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I love this book
This is the story of Ellie (Lily, actually), the girl with cerebral palsy who won't let her wheelchair slow her down. She's got some attitude and mad baking skills for her age, and wants everything in her family to be okay, even though they need her now more than ever. Mom is overworked and has taken a leave of absence to travel to Oklahoma and take care of her ailing dad (Grandpa has dementia), without telling her mother she's coming to stay for more than a visit. When grandma finds out, she's upset (of course), but wants to make the best of things -- she DOES get to see her granddaughter more. Grandma's neighbor, a girl Ellie's age, is happy to have a new friend, but Ellie isn't too sure about the friendship at first. Ellie's motives change when she finds out about the baking competition in town and she just knows she can make it as a professional baker IF things go just right. She's doing better with her medical needs (she even got to throw away the seizure medicine!) and with her new life in Oklahoma. New friends make all the hardships at school and home a little easier to handle, but Ellie's got to keep it together to meet her goals. This story is full of heart -- a struggling family with characters as real as my own family. "Rolling with it" comes with the territory, literally and figuratively. Read this one as soon as possible; you might even be left hungry for more.
Determination, heart and clever spunk make Ellie a girl to follow and root for until the end. Ellie's life is all right. There are some troubles, but all in all, she deals with things and takes challenges as they come. Until too many come. The one great change is that her seizures seem to be gone, and she can stop taking the medicine she's learned to hate. But with her father more interested in his new family than her, her grandpa's quickly worsening Alzheimer, her mother's idea to move to Oklahoma to help Ellie's grandparents, and being the new kid in school have overshadowed any happiness her health might have brought along. Somehow, Ellie's going to have to figure out how to deal with all of it. Ellie has cerebral palsy and has to deal with the troubles it causes every day of her life. This does frustrate her at times, but it's not the only problem she has. While this book does demonstrate the everyday challenges Ellie faces thanks to her personal situation, it also presents issues young readers face themselves. Being raised by a single parent, watching grandparents face diseases like Alzheimer, and simply dealing with bullying due to economic or other differences are problems kids will recognize and sympathize with. While Ellie does grow frustrated, she never gets depressed but rather works her way through things. This alone makes this type of character refreshing. Plus, she's got quite a bit of spunk, which makes her even more fun. The addition of a love for cooking/baking give her a well-rounded personality and offer an interesting hobby, which might draw the interest of some readers as well. The pacing flows nicely, and there's always something happening which makes the book hard to put down. Ellie is fully aware of what each problem truly means, and this does make her seem a little mature for her age sometimes. I was a little surprised how long it took for her to actually get to the new school, but there are enough familiar problems to keep things rolling as it is. It is an interesting read with a fun character, and I'm sure kids ages 9 to 12 will enjoy it. I received a complimentary copy and enjoyed reading it more than I thought I might. So, I'm leaving my honest thoughts.
“Roll With It” by Jamie Sumner is a very real book. Real in the sense that it talks about a lot of big issues that middle school kids face. The cliques, the have’s and the have not’s, who lives where, how to handle the first day at a new school. And, Ellie is going through all of it in her wheelchair. When Ellie and her Mom need to move to help care for her Grandparents, Ellie cannot believe she has to start over at a new school. And, she has to convince her Mom she isn’t a baby anymore. After a terrible first day that leaves Ellie in tears, is there any hope? At home, Ellie is determined to be a professional baker. She loves it and she’s really good at it! Determined to make her dream come true she practices all the time. When her Mom plans a new pick up and drop off plan with neighbors, Ellie is not happy, but sometimes new arrangements work out. Who ever would have thought that after a rough start, Ellie might never want to leave? Heart warming, a family filled with love, a kid with courage, friends and big dreams make this book a winner! –Green Gables Book Reviews 5 stars! Your Middle School Age kids will love this book! Roll With It-Jamie Sumner Publisher-Atheneum Books for Young Readers Available- October 1, 2019
Rating: 4.5 Stars Though Ellie was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth, she was fiercely independent. However, after her grandfather's dementia progressed, she and her mother moved to Oklahoma, in order to care for him. As if being the new kid wasn't hard enough, she was also the only one in a wheelchair in a town lacking accessibility. Despite those drawbacks, Ellie began to settle in, and was thinking this could be her new home. All she had to do was convince her mother. What a wonderful and heartwarming story! I adored Ellie, her wry personality, and her passion for cooking. After the move, she could have opted to have a pity party, but instead, she found things to be positive about. She was making friends, she was getting stronger with the help of her very capable gym teacher (Hutch), and she was looking forward to winning the annual pie baking contest. I loved Ellie's attitude, and respected, that her biggest qualm was not that she had CP, but that she had lost a lot of her independence, due to the lack of accessibility. Can you blame a pre-teen for just wanting to be just like everyone else? Ellie was by far the star of this story, but she had a great supporting cast of characters. Her friends, Cora Lee and Bert were wonderfully unique and interesting, but I really loved them, because of what incredible friends they were. They embraced Ellie and accepted her, when she had previously spent most of her school life on the outside looking in. It was fabulous to see her form these bonds, and I loved their plan to help her "stay forever". I also thought Ellie and her mom shared a special relationship. Her father had left, when she was young, so it was really only her and her mom. Mom was a bit overprotective, but it came from a place of love, and I think Sumner did a beautiful job showing how difficult it was for her mother to strike that right balance of mothering with the autonomy a child Ellie's age craved. I can promise you, that at the end of this book, you will have a warm heart, a smile on your face, and a craving for baked goods.
I loved this book--I couldn't put it down. I loved Ellie, and I loved her family, her two friends, and Hutch! I don't come across too many books where the main character has a disability and I love it when I find one that is so full of heart. It was helpful to see the challenges that Ellie faces on a daily basis, and how she feels about the things she can and cannot change. I love how she worries more about her grandpa than about herself, and how she loves her family fiercely. And I love how much of a "normal" tween she is and that this makes it okay to be not normal, which is really the norm, lol. The other thing I loved was how they treated the challenges of loving and caring for a person with dementia. As the daughter of someone who passed away from dementia, this really made me cry. I also appreciated the fact that they shared how her grandpa felt in his more lucid moments about what he was dealing with. The only flaws to this book is that I wish they had done a bit more with Bert and the ASD in terms of Ellie and her friends growing in understanding of what it's like to be him. They touched on it, which I appreciate it, but I think it would have hit it out of the park if they had developed that part just a bit more. Still, I will still give this book 5 stars because I think it's a huge step in the right direction and because I couldn't put it down. I hope to see more books like this! Thanks to #NetGalley, #JamieSumner, and #SimonandSchusterChildrens for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
As the mother of a daughter with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair, I have to say that it's so-o-o refreshing to read a book in which the main character is a wheelchair user. More importantly, though, Ellie, the star of ROLL WITH IT is a fully-fleshed out kid with sass and substance. "Anybody who sees a girl in a wheelchair thinks she's going to be sunshine and cuddles," Ellie says at one point, but sometimes, in realistic fashion, she wishes that she could walk. Her parents are divorced, and she has some resentment toward her father, who has remarried and is an aspiring politician. Her dad "doesn't do hospitals or sickness...which explains the whole leaving us," she says. She sometimes drools on purpose in his presence just to repulse him. She also has a passion for baking, and her letters to food editors are sprinkled throughout the novel. Baking becomes a way for her to connect with her classmates and the community. "Food," as Ellie says, "is the universal hello." I had a lot of sympathy for Ellie's mom, as she tried to advocate for her daughter and take care of her aging parents, including a father with Alzheimer's. And I could also appreciate Ellie's desire to do without an aide, and be more independent. Although this novel has a lot of sweetness, it doesn't sugarcoat real-life situations. I loved reading ROLL WITH IT. Now I'm off to bake a pie.