Friday, March 25, 2022


Roe, Monica. Air
March 15th 2022 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Byr)
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Emmie was born with spina bifida, which means that she is only able to walk a tiny bit, and has always relied on a wheelchair as her primary means of transportation. Her parents have always pushed her to do all manner of activities, and she's especially fond of skateboarding ramps, which she used to jump with her father. Since her mother's death in a car accident two years ago, her father has become more cautious, and also doesn't have as much time to spend with her since he is going to school. Things are tough economically in her small town in South Carolina, but the family has the help of her mother's parents, who live nearby. Her best friend Ale, who keeps bees, and the two have online shops where they sell wreaths made of local foliage, fat wood bundles, and wheelchair bags that Emmie makes on her mother's sewing machine and embroiders with custom designs. Emmie is saving her money for a better wheelchair that would allow her to pursue more athletic activities. Emmie's school is older, so doesn't have ramps or automatic doors, and the new principal is overly concerned about her progress. When she has an accident on a ramp (that isn't even her fault), the principal has a meeting about her 504 plan, and the school and her father decide that she should have a full time aid. Emmie isn't happy, because she likes being independent, but she is soon assigned Dawn. It's Dawn's first time as an aide, and she doesn't quite understand what it is like for Emmie in her wheelchair. At first, Emmie and Ale find a lot of silly errands to send Dawn on, but when Emmie talks to Dawn in the local dollar store about sewing notions, Emmie feels bad about how she has treated someone who needs a job and is trying her best. Emmie is interested in Devontae, who competes in a lot of local rodeos, but the two have a slight misunderstanding when he invites her to watch him at a competition. She turns him down, but not because she doesn't like him; the venue where he is competing is notoriously bad for accessible bathroom facilities! Emmie embroiders a sassy sentimented bag for a woman in Alaska, and starts to question some aspects of being in a wheelchair, which is made worse when the principal decides to have a fund raiser to help Emmie get her wheelchair. She starts to understand that while it's great that she can get some financial help, she is being exploited to make the school look better. When she learns about the 504 sit-ins, she decides to use the school's assembly where they plan to present a check to her and turn it to her own advantage. 
Strengths: This was a great portrayal of someone who has different abilities, but has other interests and concerns. Emmie isn't given as much of a chance to pursue athletics as she would like, due to financial circumstances, but it was good to see that the gym teacher would occasionally play basketball with her. Skateboarding isn't usually a school sport, but it's one that interests Emmie. I love that she and Ale had their own Etsy-type store in order to earn some income. I would have liked to know more about Ale and her beekeeping, but one of the subplots is about Emmie  not caring quite as much about her friend's pursuits even though Ale helps Emmie on the skateboarding ramps. The father's concerns about Emmie are valid, and his struggles to raise her while going to school and working are realistically portrayed. While the school fund raiser is a bit cringey, it is also realistic. I loved that Emmie was able to make a statement of her own in spite of it. 
Weaknesses: The plot would have worked just as well if the mother had been alive. 
What I really think: This was a fascinating book, and the author says in a note that she has worked with children in situations similar to Emmie's. In twenty five years of teaching, I've only ever had two students in wheelchairs, but there needs to be more positive representation of all manner of different abilities. Definitely purchasing, and this would be a great fiction book to pair with Heumann's Rolling Warrior: My Story of Fighting to Belong.

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