Learning to Fall

Little, Brown. Sept. 2022. 272p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780316367974.
Gr 3-7–Twelve-year-old Daphne hasn’t seen her dad in three years because of his drinking but now she’s being forced to spend the summer with him in Oakland, CA, while her mom films a movie in Prague. Daphne’s dad is an avid skateboarder and when she was younger, they used to skateboard together. But, ever since the Skate Park Disaster when she was 10, Daphne’s refused to skate. Now in recovery, her dad’s trying to reconnect with her but Daphne stubbornly refuses his overtures, instead giving him her “Cold Fish” look. She blames him for her skateboarding accident two years ago when he didn’t show up to skate with her as he promised. Her dad’s neighbor and best friend Gus is dating a woman who has a son Daphne’s age named Arlo, and he is an enthusiastic skateboarder too. With both Arlo and her dad’s patience and encouragement, Daphne begins to regain her confidence and love for skateboarding. She even allows Arlo to film her skating for his summer film project. While Daphne can be sharp at times, her unwillingness to initially trust or forgive her dad feels realistic. As she finally begins to thaw and hear him out, she becomes more understanding and empathetic. Arlo and Gus are Mexican American; the rest of the characters are white.
VERDICT An authentic and hopeful look at a young girl with a passion for skateboarding who is struggling to understand and forgive an alcoholic parent with the support of family and friends.

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