Author: Jordan Sonnenblick
Publisher: New York: Scholastic, 2016
Genre: Upper MG, Lower YA Fiction
Audience Age: 10 to 14
Themes topics: Parental illness, stroke, family problems, school problems, dance, music
Opening Sentences: I’m waiting in the wings, watching all of the fathers dancing onstage. Well, all of the fathers except mine. It’s my annual dance recital, and I have just turned fourteen. This is the first year I am old enough for the Dads’ Dance—the big father-daughter number that closes the first act of the recital every year. I have waited since I was a little girl to be in this dance, but just because you’ve waited for something doesn’t mean you’ll get it.
Synopsis: “Just because you’ve waited for something doesn’t mean you’ll get it.” Those words underlie the entire book – although it isn’t a book that is filled with despair and angst, despite the serious topics dealt with. In fact, it is laced through and through with humor.
Note – although in the first pre-chapter quoted from above, Claire, the main character, is fourteen, the main body of the story takes place during the year before her fourteenth birthday.
Claire and her dad are happily eating breakfast when he suddenly falls over sideways off his chair after having a stroke. At that moment, Claire knows that her life is never going to be the same again. And she can’t get out of her mind the fact that the evening before, she had told Dad he didn’t understand her struggles, and she had said, “…maybe you need to struggle more.” Now he couldn’t talk properly, or walk, and couldn’t even breathe on his own.
Dad’s stroke becomes part of her reality as she deals with kids at school whose primary purpose seems to be to torment her, with her two best dance friends who are moved ahead into the older dance group while she is judged not ready for that, with band rehearsals, a perfect brother, and a mother who is in denial.
The dance recital looms at the end of this horrible year – with the father-daughter dance. And the reader remembers Claire’s words from the first paragraph. “Just because you’ve waited for something doesn’t mean you’ll get it.”
I devoured this book. It is excellent – it portrays the father’s stroke well (and made me realize that, as strokes go, the ones my mother had were minor). It’s also spot-on with the early teen voice. As I said earlier in this post, despite the serious subjects dealt with, humor abounds. I highly recommend this book.
For Further Enrichment: Find Jordan Sonnenblick’s website here (and read an excerpt of this book).
There’s an interview with the author, as well as information about his other books, at the TeachingBooks website.
Information about strokes from the website Kids Health is here.
Information about how to talk to kids (of all ages) about strokes can be found at The Blue Room, a website from Australia.
We should all be aware of the warning signs of a stroke. Remember the word FAST – Face drooping; Arm weakness; Speech Difficulty; Time to call 911. Find details here.
Availability: This book is readily available.
F is for Falling Over Sideways. It is for Father, for Family, for Friends, for Fear, and for Facing difficulties. It is for Fighting back from setbacks. It is also for the FAST method of remembering the warning signs of stroke and what to do if you think someone is having one.