Roll With It
October 01, 2019
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!
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I really believe that most middle school students are more curious about differences than mean about them, and Coralee and Bert both evidence this in their treatment of Ellie. Ellie herself is very matter of fact about what she can and can't do, and there is enough description about the help she needs to enlighten readers who have never encountered someone in a wheelchair. While the move necessitates some discussion of her wheelchair use, this is a book about the family dynamics and the grandfather's Alzheimer's as well as settling in to a new community. It was fast-paced, fun to read, and included a lot of good baking descriptions. The cover is appealing, and I can see this being a popular book with my students.
The grandfather's dementia is a great addition to this story.
This hit the sweet spot on a lot of levels-- Ellie is pragmatic but not noble, her mother is concerned but proactive, and the grandparents are aware of their situation and actively looking for a solution. There are a lot of problem novels for middle grade readers, and I've given up complaining about them; I am just glad when we see problem novels that model a positive way forward. Ellie is a great example of how to "roll with it" in a positive manner.
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