Saturday, November 30, 2019

Review: Roll With It by Jamie Sumner

by Jamie Sumner
Atheneum Books
Middle Grade Contemporary
256 pages
ages 10 and up

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 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!


Determination, heart and clever spunk make Ellie a girl to follow and root for until the end.

Ellie's life is all right. There are some troubles, but all in all, she deals with things and takes challenges as they come. Until too many come. The one great change is that her seizures seem to be gone, and she can stop taking the medicine she's learned to hate. But with her father more interested in his new family than her, her grandpa's quickly worsening Alzheimer, her mother's idea to move to Oklahoma to help Ellie's grandparents, and being the new kid in school have overshadowed any happiness her health might have brought along. Somehow, Ellie's going to have to figure out how to deal with all of it.

Ellie has cerebral palsy and has to deal with the troubles it causes every day of her life. This does frustrate her at times, but it's not the only problem she has. While this book does demonstrate the everyday challenges Ellie faces thanks to her personal situation, it also presents issues young readers face themselves. Being raised by a single parent, watching grandparents face diseases like Alzheimer, and simply dealing with bullying due to economic or other differences are problems kids will recognize and sympathize with.

While Ellie does grow frustrated, she never gets depressed but rather works her way through things. This alone makes this type of character refreshing. Plus, she's got quite a bit of spunk, which makes her even more fun. The addition of a love for cooking/baking give her a well-rounded personality and offer an interesting hobby, which might draw the interest of some readers as well.

The pacing flows nicely, and there's always something happening which makes the book hard to put down. Ellie is fully aware of what each problem truly means, and this does make her seem a little mature for her age sometimes. I was a little surprised how long it took for her to actually get to the new school, but there are enough familiar problems to keep things rolling as it is. It is an interesting read with a fun character, and I'm sure kids ages 9 to 12 will enjoy it.

And here she is...

Jamie Sumner's work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other publications. She loves stories that celebrate the grit and beauty in all kids and is the author of the middle grade novel Roll With It. She is also the mother to a son with cerebral palsy and lives with her family in Nashville, Tennessee. Visit her at

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