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There's a game I play when I find a book about a disabled character. Before looking up any information about the author, I read a random page or two, and guess whether the author's experience with disability is first-hand or second-hand. I've never been wrong, and my record holds. "Roll With It" was very clearly a product of second-hand disability experience. There was a lot to like about the book, but it wasn't authentic voice.
I'm mostly disappointed that when I look through the reviews, nobody seems to notice the central flaw to the story--Ellie is a bold, articulate, sassy, interesting, socially competent kid... who's never had a friend before? That's not even a little bit realistic. Kids in wheelchairs have friends. Other kids are weirded out by the chair for like 10 seconds, and then they're over it and ready to play. We're supposed to believe that Ellie's gone to school with the same peers her entire life, and they never acclimated to the chair? There's nothing about Ellie's personality or mannerism that would scare off potential friends. The idea that a kid in a wheelchair would be a social pariah is a premise based on ableism. It makes me sad that everyone accepts it without question.
The author is a talented writer with an engaging voice and she creates fun characters. But the world needs disabled people telling disabled stories. We don't need more parents speaking on our behalf.
(Oh, and the part about "tribes" was super problematic. The correct use of the word was treated as a joke, while the racist use was normalized.... Maybe the author is a naive white woman who doesn't know any better, but that got past an entire publishing house??)
I loved Ellie’s story! Her relationships with her mom, grandparents, and community are told in a true middle grade voice. I so appreciate stories that feature kids who are outside popular “cliques” as the reality is that’s the case for most kids.
I also loved that there is a thread of leaning into what makes you unique: for Ellie, it’s her baking skills; for her friends, singing, knowing facts, and building. I like that kids this age can be told that what they love is important!
The only section that caused me pause and is worth noting is a scene where Ellie and her friend are talking and her friend mentions that they are a “tribe.” When Ellie says that she doesn’t understand - she thinks of the word tribe referring to Native American tribes - her friend corrects her, whitewashing the term and applying it to any group of friends. In the US, this is a big deal as Native Americans have been telling anyone who will listen that the broad use of the word is hurtful. Since this book featured an all-white cast and using the term that way goes un-challenged in the book, I thought it was worth mentioning. And when read by kids, discussed.
Ellie’s complex relationships with her family, her friends, and her own health provide the backdrop for a really great character arc.
I love the book. From a reader’s perspective, it flows well. The characters are developed and real. There is a real story there that makes you laugh and cheer. As a Mom of a special needs kid, this book rocks! We need more books like this that show what our kids can do and that they are people just like us. I was impressed with how seamlessly she brought issues like the girl being afraid that one day she would be put in a home, and the way in which she handles it. I love everything Jamie Sumner writes.
I bought this for my daughter who is in Middle School, and picked it up to give a quick glance. I realized quickly that I would need to brew a cup of tea so I could sit and get to know Ellie and her family and friends for myself, and I am so glad I did. The characters and relationships in Roll With It grew and evolved and kept me involved, and I was actually not sure how the book would end. It was an engaging read that I truly enjoyed. (My daughter loved it as well.)
This book is amazing. It’s the book I wish I’d had when I was a child. It resonated so much with me and I’m so glad kids have it now.
I love Ellie. She’s a fighter. She has CP and is in a wheelchair, but she doesn’t let that stop her. She has goals and dreams and she keeps going. She and her family amaze me with their strength. I laughed, cried, and loved this book.
I am drawn to check out books about children/teens with disabilities as I am a special needs mom. I love accessible literature that gives readers a glimpse into the life of children like mine. Reading about kids definitely gives the reader empathy and hopefully, though fiction, breaks down some of the misconceptions and barriers to their relationships with kids of different abilities. And this book did it! It has believable and relatable characters. Very thankful for the author to share this story - one I will recommend to others.
This is a not-to-be-missed novel if you love excellent characters who are unique and well-rounded, friendship stories, heartwarming family stories, and a main character who, despite her wheelchair bound life, is determined to stay positive, fight for what she thinks is right, and follow her dreams of being a famous pastry chef. I purchased a hardcover and will treasure it in my library.