Posted in Fiction, Humor, Middle Grade, Middle School, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Jamie Sumner’s Roll With It gives life with CP a face and a story

Roll With It, by Jamie Sumner, (Oct. 2019, Atheneum), $17.99, ISBN: 9781534442559

Ages 10-14

Twelve-year-old Ellie loves to bake. She writes letters to famous chefs and cookbook authors, asking questions to make her own art better. She’s frustrated by her overprotective mom, having to go to the bathroom at school with the help of an aide, and her father, who exists in theory, not so much in practice. Ellie also has cerebral palsy, or CP, which keeps her wheelchair-bound, but never out of the game. After her grandfather, who has dementia, drives his car into a local supermarket, Ellie’s mom packs up and heads to Eufala, Oklahoma, to live with and help out. Ellie’s grandmother is thrilled to have her family for a visit, but makes it clear that she’s not putting her husband into a home. Ellie starts school and a new life in Oklahoma, befriending Coralee and Bert; schoolmates who have their own eccentric flairs, and taking on a school that isn’t ready for Ellie.

Inspired by her son, Roll With It is author Jamie Sumner’s first novel, and with it, she has given us a main character who is upbeat, smart, funny, and darned independent. She’s a tween on the verge of teenhood, coping with adolescent feelings and frustrations on top of family worries, like her grandfather’s increasing dementia, concern about her grandmother, and a father that she’s disappointed in and hurt by. On top of that, she has the struggles that come with being in a school ill-equipped to work with her needs, and being the new kid in the middle of a school year. How does she cope? She lets you know what’s going on! Her voice is strong and clear, in her fantastic tweenage snark and honesty. Her friends Coralee and Bert have fully-realized backstories, giving them life beyond being Ellie’s friends in the background. Ellie’s grandparents and mother emerge as realistic, three-dimensional characters with big concerns of their own: family health, an absent spouse, bills, bills, bills.

A story about fitting in and standing out, following a dream and making your own way, Ellie is a character you want to cheer for and your kids will want to hang out with. Hand this to any of your realistic fiction readers, especially the kids that love Aven’s adventures in Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling or Sharon Draper’s Out of My Mind; for your baking aficionados, give to readers who loved Jessie Janowitz’s The Doughnut Fix/The Doughnut King, and Anna Meriano’s Love Sugar Magic books. Talk this up to your teacher visitors, and suggest they take a look at it (I’m always ready to push good Summer Reading list ideas).

Roll With It has starred reviews from Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly. Check out Jamie Sumner’s author webpage, where you can sign up to receive her newsletter and download a free discussion guide.


Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Happy National Hug Your Cat Day! Celebrate with Max Attacks and a Giveaway!

Max Attacks, by Kathi Appelt/Illustrated by Penelope Dullaghan, (June 2019, Atheneum), $17.99, ISBN: 9781481451468

Ages 3-8

Max is a cat. A cat who attacks. No, he’s not a mean cat, he’s just a cat cat. If you’re a cat person, you know that look: the ears go flat, the backside wiggles, and the cat is off, attacking its prey, usually a random piece of plastic, small plush toy, or – in my case – a rogue Lego. In Max Attacks, Max is an adorable blue striped cat who attempts to trounce and pounce on the fishbowl, but is sidetracked by foes like window screens, catnip toys, laundry, and a shoelace (still attached to the person’s shoe). But when Max finally turns his undivided attention to the fishbowl, is he in for a wet surprise?

Max Attacks is absolutely adorable. The rhyming text gives a playful feel to the story and makes for a fun, boisterous readaloud. I read this to my Saturday storytime group and they loved it! Penelope Dullaghan’s acrylic, charcoal, and digital illustrations are bright and add a hand-drawn touch to each spread. She’s got the cat’s reactions down perfectly, from the loping run to the I-meant-to-do-that reaction when a leap goes horribly awry. The white background lets the brightly-colored characters take charge of the story, and the bold, black text has different colored words for emphasis, letting a reader change voice to create asides or pitch.

This is an adorable must-read for your storytimes and for your cat fans. Max Attacks is out on June 11th, but feel free to hug your cat and read to them today.


Want a shot at your own copy of Max Attacks? (U.S. addresses only, please!) One lucky reader will receive a copy of Max Attacks, courtesy of Atheneum; just visit this Rafflecopter giveaway!

Kathi Appelt is the New York Times best-selling author of more than forty books for children and young adults. Her first novel, The Underneath, was a National Book Award Finalist and a Newbery Honor Book. It also received the PEN USA Award. Her other novels include Angel Thieves, for young adults, The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, a National Book Award finalist, and Maybe a Fox, one of the Bank Street Books Best Children’s Books of the Year. In addition to writing, Ms. Appelt is on the faculty in the Masters of Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in College Station, Texas. To learn more, and to find curriculum materials and activity pages, visit her website at!