Today, Sunday October 6, 2019 is World Cerebral Palsy Day. It’s a good day to review a book with a character living with cerebral palsy. It’s a chance for kids—for everyone, really—to learn about not only the limitations of having such a disease, but also the kind of life kids with CP can have despite the disease.
Roll With It
Written by Jamie Sumner
Atheneum Books for Young Readers 10/1/2019
256z pages Ages 10+
Genre: Middle Grade Book, Fiction
Themes: Disabilities, Friendships, Cerebral Palsy
Synopsis: 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 a 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! (from publisher)
It’s kind of hard to watch The Great British Bake Off over the plates of Stouffer’s lasagna. Especially since it’s been in the freezer awhile—the edges are dry and crusty
Why I like this book:
First, a little about Lily, nicknamed Elle. She wants more than anything to become a professional baker. When other kids are playing sports, meeting friends, and going on dates, Elle bakes. Her one friend, and test-taster, is mom (dad lives with his “new family”). When not baking, Elle writes letters to famous chefs. Elle rides in a tricked out wheelchair she customized herself. She is twelve-years-old and has cerebral palsy.
Mom’s parents are everything to Elle. Grandpa is dealing with a disease himself. It causes him to do things out of character, like driving his car through the local grocery store window. Mom decides to make their Christmas holiday a temporary move, maybe six months, so she and Elle can help grandma care for grandpa. That means a new home—a mobile home—with doors that do not accommodate wheelchairs. It means a new school that has never had a student with a wheelchair. It means Elle meets her first friend, and soon, another friend.
Roll With It shows us Elle at her worst and best. Living with cerebral palsy doesn’t stop Elle from doing most things she wants to do. Sometimes, mom holds Elle back. Mom believes she is keeping Elle safe, and sometimes she is, but other times the problem is mom’s own fears, not Elle’s abilities. This is common for parents of children—and adults—who live with a disability. With the help of her friends, Elle retrains her mother’s thinking from a young girl in a wheelchair, to a young girl capable of safely experiencing all life has to offer.
Roll With It gives kids with CP a character similar to themselves. Elle’s character deals with embarrassments, failures, and frustrations. She also has moments where she succeeds beyond anyone’s expectations, even her own. Kids will read about Elle’s ambition to become a professional baker, and actively preparing for that day by practicing what she wants to become. Just like a basketball player practices shooting hoops, Elle practices baking. Being only twelve-years-old, and in a wheelchair doesn’t stop Elle from her dreams. That makes Elle a wonderful role model for everyone.
When reading Roll With It, it is easy to forget Elle uses a wheelchair. She can be amazing, like when playing putt-putt with her friends. Coralee and Bert play like one might expect a kid that age to play—all over and outside the course, hitting the ball with too much enthusiasm. Elle quietly and patiently lines up her putt and uses the right amount of oomph to get the ball into the hole—an ace! Young kids will love Roll With It. There is heart and humor enough for all. Elle, with her resilience, can help kids understand that diseases, such as cerebral palsy, do not define a person—no matter the age.
Elle asks her gym teacher how he knew how to do work her muscles as he had. He replies,
“You mean how does a gym teacher like me know how to do real therapy?”
It’s a funny line, especially given the subject matter of Roll With It. It is unfair to assume someone with a disability cannot do this or that. Hutch is a teacher; therefore, he could not possibly know anything about physical therapy. Why couldn’t he know? Assumptions are bad, but can also be hilarious.
World Cerebral Palsy Day Website: https://worldcpday.org/
Roll with It. Copyright © 2019 by Jamie Sumner. Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York, NY.
Available at Amazon
Copyright © 2019 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved