Review Detail

Middle Grade Fiction 180
Rare and Wonderful Skateboaring Book!
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Daphne lives with her mother, an aspiring actress, in Los Angeles, but when her mother gets a part in an important picture filming in Prague, she finds herself on a plane to the Oakland to stay with the father that she hasn't seen in two years. Her father had some problems with alcohol that lead to her parents' divorce, and he let her down very badly on her birthday a few years previously, not showing up to a skate park when he said he would, so he wasn't there when she tried to skate and broke her arm. She has decided that she will spend the summer being very aloof, but it is hard. With the help of his parents, her father has gotten a house he is fixing up. It's next door to his best friend, Gus, who has helped him through a lot of his problems and is also fixing up his house. Gus' girlfriend, Rusty, has a son, Arlo, who also likes to skate. At one point, Daphne's father skated for a living, but his alcoholism and bad choices brought that to an end. Now, he is looking for jobs in the tech field after going back to school, so often has job interviews. Daphne is fine to hang out with Arlo, or go to her grandparents' house. Her grandmother is very glad to see her again, since Daphne spent a lot of time with them when she was very young, even though she doesn't remember them. Her long range plan, however, is to ditch her father and go to Prague to be with her mother on the set. Her mother keeps putting her off, which doesn't improve her mood. Daphne was made fun of when she tried to skate at a park back in LA, and was traumatized by that and by breaking her arm, so is reluctant to do many tricks or "drop in" (See the cover. I think this is a realistic fear!), even though she is able to practice a bit in Gus' bowl in his backyard. Arlo is willing to teach her, as is her father, and she reluctantly takes help from both of them. Her father is very stressed by his job search, and at one point Daphne calls her grandmother because she is worried that her father might start drinking. He doesn't, but needs help from his AA sponsor. He does apologize to Daphne for his current frustration as well as for his past neglect. He even plans a camping and skating trip to make it up to her, but when he lands a new job and is given an opportunity to earn some extra money by filling in for someone else, he plans on sending Daphne with Gus, Arlo and Rusty while he stays in Oakland to work. This angers Daphne, who is all set to take off for Prague. Will Daphne be able to conquer her fears and learn to skate, and will she be able to navigate a new relationship with her father?
Good Points
There just are not enough skateboarding books, although I was glad to see Roe's Air earlier this year. Daphne's feelings about skateboarding are realistically complicated-- she likes to skate, but feel she can't do tricks, and she almost doesn't want to learn because her father likes to skate and she's mad at her father. At the same time, she craves his attention and approval, so wants to learn from him. Watching her cope with his job search and struggles not to drink was hard but something that many young readers may face from time to time with their own parents. Certainly, many tweens have to deal with spending the summer with a noncustodial parents and will understand Daphne's awkwardness. Arlo is a good friend, and I really enjoyed the grandparents, who tried so hard to be fair to both of Daphne's parents. The skating details are exquisite, and the Oakland setting is well described. This was a very fun book to read even if you aren't interested in skateboarding and reminded me a bit of Zarr's A Song Called Home.

It is a rare and wonderful occurrence to find a skateboarding book; I've been asking for more on this topic since I began blogging in 2006. In fact, it occurred to me that Daphne's father reminded me very strongly of one of my students who is probably now old enough to have a middle school aged daughter! Definitely purchasing a copy and am looking forward to seeing more books by this author.
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