Not If I Can Help It

Scholastic. Jul. 2019. 240p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545709484.
Gr 3-6–Willa, who has sensory processing disorder, is best friends with Ruby, who struggles with anxiety. Things for the friends get rough at the end of fifth grade as they await their middle school placements and when Willa’s dad and Ruby’s mom announce that not only have they been dating for quite some time, but are getting engaged. On top of these massive changes, Joshua, Willa and her brother’s sitter, is moving to Chicago with his boyfriend before the summer is over, and Willa’s long-promised plans to adopt a dog are put on hold. All these changes make living in Willa’s body harder than it already is, but luckily she has a strong support network. Both her father and mother are sensitive and supportive and work well as a divorced couple co-parenting their children. Willa has a wonderful occupational therapist, and she’s paired with Sophie, a kindergartener who is also having a rough time. This novel manages to convey not only the experience of living with sensory processing disorder, but also the message that all families and people are unique and valued, not in spite of but because of their differences. Willa and her biological family are white, Ruby is first-generation American, and her mother is Indian. Mackler weaves friendship, family, disability, and race into a story which feels genuine, engaging, and never didactic.
VERDICT Loving and hopeful, this is a recommended first purchase

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