Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Not if I Can Help It

Mackler, Carolyn. Not if I Can Help It
July 30th 2019 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Willa has struggled with a sensory processing disorder her whole life, but with supportive parents and some occupational therapy, she deals with it well enough that she doesn't even tell her best friend, Ruby, about it. She fits in well enough at The Children's School in New York City, where her classmates are all abuzz waiting to hear what their middle school placements will be. Willa and Ruby (who loves soccer and is herself a bit anxious, especially since she seems to have a smaller bladder than everyone else!) are worried that they won't be at the same school. Willa lives with her father and younger brother, and have a babysitter whom they really like. Her mother lives two hours away, where she took a professorship after the parents divorced. She is since remarried, and has approached Willa with the idea of living with her for middle school. All of this anxiety makes it harder for Willa to control her body, and she does get some coping strategies from her therapist, and her teachers know how to redirect her as well. When she finds out that her father and Ruby's mother have been dating for a while, and worse, are in love with each other and thinking about getting married, she is even more stressed. She likes her best friend, but she hates change, and doesn't want Ruby to know about her sensory processing disorder and all of the ways she copes with it. It doesn't help that Avery, a mean girl she's known since preschool, gives her a hard time about it. With the help of the adults in her life, Willa manages to navigate her way through her difficulties and end fifth grade on a high note.
Strengths: This was oddly compelling. I was absolutely sucked into Willa's world, and the details about how she dealt with her issues were enthralling (her dad prewears her socks; I can relate-- Picky Reader prefers it if I break in her tennis shoes!). There's even a buzzing feeling of anxiety conveyed in the text that I can't quite explain. While the 1970s saw a lot of middle grade books about divorce, it's still a common occurrence, and many of my students have to deal with blended families, visiting parents on weekends, and thinking about alternate living arrangements. I have not seen this topic addressed in the literature as much, and this is one of the few books about sensory processing disorders out there.Pla's Stanley Will Probably Be Fine is the only other one that comes to mind.
Weaknesses: It was somewhat difficult to like Willa, and it's hard to wrap my mind around the East Coast educational system. You have to apply to middle school? It will seem exotic to my students.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, and this would circulate well based on the cover alone. More candy related covers so I can make a display!
Ms. Yingling

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