Sunday, January 9, 2022

AIR: A MIDDLE GRADE REVIEW AND GIVEAWAY-- PART I

I am thrilled to share with you my friend Monica Roe's, upcoming novel, Air (Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, March 15, 2022)Today you are going to hear about a book that her publisher describes as,
"a smart, energetic middle grade debut about thinking big, working hard, and taking flight."

On Thursday you'll get a glimpse behind the scenes in my interview with Monica. She'll share the book's backstory and her road to publication.

But for now, sit back and enjoy hearing about a book that I hope, will fly off the bookshelves.


                                    (Is this an amazing cover, or what?)

REVIEW

From the second page of this book for boys and girls, the reader hears voice, courage, and a good dose of Southern chutzpah, and a touch of sadness. The main character, Emmie, and her best friend, Ale, are setting her up for a launch off of the wheelchair ramp her father built.  As they prepare she thinks, 

"We [her father and her] used to be out here together, instead of me having to sneak around." 

I read that sentence and thought, "What happened to change things?" 
What a great way to insert backstory to make the reader keep going! 

The internalization continues:

I pull on my padded gloves, bring my front wheels to the edge, and breathe. The view from the top of a drop--even a basic one like this--gets me going every time. Those tadpoles swimming in my chest and the sweat on my palms are the best kind of rush. Now that added jump waiting at the bottom makes my guts fizz like I ate a handful of live bees and chased them with a bottle of Coke.

Right. Let's do this. (p. 4)

A few pages later the chapter ends with:

I'm Emelyn Ethridge. I'm twelve-and-a-half years old. Alejandra Che is my best friend.

I like Flamain' Hot Cheetos.

And I love speed. (p.8)


As a reader, I'm hooked. And I won't let go until I find out what this daring young wheelchair athlete is going to do.

As speedy as Emmie herself, this book moves. The author doesn't take much space on the page to let the reader know, "Baby Emmie's spinal cord left the factory with a design glitch." Her parents "never let me get away with acting like I was some miracle for getting out of bed...They put me on wheels, had me popping curbs by the time I was six." (p. 19-20)

Early on the reader discovers that her mom recently died and her father  has changed--he doesn't seem to believe in her anymore. "He was my biggest cheerleader--my partner in high-speed mischief. Since Mom's been gone, he's so...different. Cautious. Scared even. (p. 22) Her father's work, night classes, and overtime hours don't give them the time together she wants. 

I admire the way in which Monica uses deep point-of-view to show who Emmie is and what she wants. For example, when she witnesses an argument between her father and Nonny, her maternal grandmother, she thinks:
Sometimes I think it's too bad Dad and Nonny don't have wheels, too. Moving fast is the best way I know to keep ahead of feelings you'd rather shake off. (p. 34)

When she dresses up and attends a fairy festival with Ale, she observes:
Nobody's paying us any mind. One thing I love about the festival is that pretty much nobody pays attention to my chair. It's almost like it's a part of my costume--like those people riding in the wooden troll wagon or bounding around on their spring-loaded stilts while telling fortunes. Everyone blends right in. (p. 101)
Without knocking the reader over the head and telling her that Emmie wants to be treated like a kid--not a person with a disability--Monica shows it. This theme is deeply embedded in Air and is crucial to the ending which I didn't foresee. Afterwards, I realized it is a perfect conclusion to a story where the character reaches both her internal and external goals

In addition to a well-developed character, Monica includes some terrific secondary characters who contribute mightily to the plot. There's a budding romance with a cute, rodeo "prince" (with all the miscommunication that comes with a first-time crush); an annoying aide who is assigned to Emmie but who proves her worth as a friend; and a spit-firing Alaskan Granny who orders custom wheelchair bags from Emmie.  (I forgot to tell you--Emmie and Ale have an online shop to raise money: Emmie craves a high-end, multi-link-suspension stunt chair and Ale is working towards getting a new hive. They sell bags that Emmie sews and natural stuff which they salvage from the South Carolina scrub between their houses).

Did I love this book? Guess that's obvious. Am I going to study it to see how Monica portrayed Emmie's voice so well? You bet.

Come back on Thursday and find out more about Monica and why she was in a unique position to write about a young person with a disability and why bees and Alaska found a perfect place in the world of Air

GIVEAWAY

You have THREE chances to enter this giveaway. Leave a comment here and you get one chance. Leave a comment on Thursday's author interview with Monica and you get a second chance. If you click here and discover how I met Monica and leave a comment there--your name goes in the hat three times! U.S. addresses only. Giveaway ends January 17th at 6PM. If you don't want to leave your email address, please email me and I'll enter your name. Make sure you leave your name and email address if you are new to my blog!

And if you don't win, I hope you consider purchasing this book for yourself, a young reader in your life, or a library. Pre-orders help authors!

Congratulations to Danielle Hammelef who won SEEKING FREEDOM. 



36 comments:

Natalie Aguirre said...

This sounds like a great debut, especially if you want to study it. Thanks for sharing some excerpts from the story. natalieiaguirre7@gmail.com

Carol Baldwin said...

Thankyou, Natalie. Yes--read and study it! YOu start the list.

Beth said...

Wow, Carol!I am taking notes about this book and your lessons. I need this mentor text. Can't wait to read the interview. Thanks for a thoughtful, impressive post!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thank you, Beth. Please make sure to leave me your last name and email address so I can enter you in the giveaway.

Sue Heavenrich said...

You always review interesting books! Definitely going to look for this one. Emmie sounds like someone I know (skater) - Air indeed!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Sue. That's so cool that you know someone like EMmie--she might like this book too!

The Edgeclinger said...

Can't wait to get my hands on this book. I'm in love with Emmie even before I've met her!
Lauris Burns
laurisburns@gmail.com

Carol Baldwin said...

Thank you, Lauris. You will love this book!

Danielle H. said...

Great review on this exciting debut! I love the showing from the excerpts you included and am going to add this book to my Goodreads today. The author's creation of Emmie reminds me so much of Dusti Bowling's character Aven Green, a girl born without arms and everything she can do using her feet instead of hands (I've read all of Dusti's books and loved each one and highly recommend them to everyone). I'm going to love reading this book too.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks sounds like a good comparison, Danielle. You will love AIR!

Greg Pattridge said...

Such a special sounding plot and I love the cover. The characters seem to make it all worthwhile. Read-aloud and discussion possibilities, too. Thanks for featuring on MMGM.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Greg. The cover is outstanding and the characters and ending are superlative. If you don't win this copy, I can have Monica send you one to be reviewed on your blog!

Theresa Milstein said...

You're right--this book has certainly got voice! Fantastic cover goes with its spirit.
I want to read this one!

Carol Baldwin said...

I think you and your students will like this book, Theresa!

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

I WANT this book! And yes, I will enter three times in attempt to get it! I'm so excited for Monica regarding this latest accomplishment! Can't wait to read the interview on Thursday!
And yes, I just ended four consecutive sentences with exclamation points! (Or five actually.)

Carol Baldwin said...

YOu're in twice so far, Joyce. You will LOVE it.

Tiffany said...

This looks great! I will plan to pre-order!

Carol Baldwin said...

YEAH!! thanks, Tiffany

Max @ Completely Full Bookshelf said...

This book sounds like such an excellent read—the premise is wonderful, and I love the quotes you've shared! I'll pass on the giveaway, but thanks so much for the great review, Carol!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks for leaving a comment, Max. I hope you have a chance to read this book.

Lisa Fowler said...

This sounds like a great read. Thank you for the interview and heads up about this book, Carol!

Carol Baldwin said...

I think you'd love this, Lisa!

Lisa Fowler said...

Fingers crossed!

Carol Baldwin said...

But three chances will help, Lisa!

Carmela McCain Simmons said...

I have got to read this book. Every photo of my nephew shows him on the go, skiiing, skateboarding, surfing, windsurfing, motorcross... until someone ran a stop sign and left him paraplegic. So looking forward to reading and sharing this with him.

Carol Baldwin said...

Great, Carmela! I need your email address though!

Terri DeGezelle Michels said...

Nice job on the post! thank you, Terri

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Teri!

Rosi said...

Well, this sounds like a terrific story. I will be looking for this one. Thanks for the post.

Gail Hurlburt said...

As the legal guardian of a SPECIAL NEEDS SISTER, that experienced a very challenging 2020 and 2021 because of Covid a a hip fracture, I very much would like to read AIR. Thank you for entering my name.

Gail Hurlburt

Carol Baldwin said...

I thought this book would \nterest you, Gail! And your grands.

Jilanne Hoffmann said...

Love these tantalizing bits you've shown us, Carol.

Carol Baldwin said...

Your students would love this book, Jilanne!

Carol Baldwin said...

You're welcome, Rosi. I think you have to read it!

Unknown said...

Would love to get my hands on this book for my kids at school. Elementary librarian. Thank you for a chance.

Carol Baldwin said...

Please leave your name and email address to enter this giveaway!

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