Roll with It

Atheneum/S. & S./. Oct. 2019. 256p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534442559.
Gr 5-7–In Sumner’s middle grade debut, 12-year-old Ellie dreams of being a famous baker/chef, instead of being known as the “kid with cerebral palsy in a wheelchair.” Ellie is obsessed with learning baking techniques with her overworked mother and writes letters to her favorite celebrity chefs about the recipes she has tried. Ellie’s world is turned upside down when she and her mother move to her grandmother’s trailer park residence in Oklahoma to assist with the care of her ailing grandfather, who suffers from the early stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Ellie rises to the challenge of being the new girl in school and makes new friends through her kindness, as well as her baking prowess. Ellie finds a way to conquer her doubts and prove to her mother that the move to Oklahoma was a good thing for both of them. Young readers will delve into Ellie’s relationships with her distant father and her mother, grandparents, friends, neighbors, teachers, and classmates. Sumner offers a heartfelt and humorous glimpse into the life of a girl with cerebral palsy who is determined to make her mark on a world that often perceives her as limited because of her disability. However, adults may want to discuss the ableist terms and sentiments Ellie expresses when describing herself, including the word “crippled” and feeling “stuck” in a wheelchair.
VERDICT Recommended for fans of tender realistic fiction including Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s The War That Saved My Life and Elana K. Arnold’s A Boy Called Bat.  The challenges faced by youth like Ellie are underrepresented in children’s literature; highly recommended for middle grade collections.

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