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Time to Roll

Part of Roll with It

About The Book

In the eagerly anticipated sequel to Jamie Sumner’s acclaimed and beloved middle grade novel Roll with It, Ellie finds her own way to shine.

Ellie is so not the pageant type. They’re Coralee’s thing, and Ellie is happy to let her talented friend shine in the spotlight. But what’s she supposed to do when Coralee asks her to enter a beauty pageant, and their other best friend, Bert, volunteers to be their manager? Then again, how else is she going to get through this summer with her dad, who barely knows her, while her mom is off on her honeymoon with Ellie’s amazing gym teacher? Ellie decides she has nothing to lose.

There’s only one problem: the director of the pageant seems determined to put Ellie and her wheelchair front and center. So it’s up to Ellie to figure out a way to do it on her own terms and make sure her friendships don’t fall apart along the way. Through it all, from thrift store deep dives to disastrous dance routines, she begins to form her own definition of beauty and what it means to really be seen.


Chapter 1: Happily Ever After 1 Happily Ever After
Peach is not my color. And silk is definitely not my fabric. But what am I going to do—boycott my own mother’s wedding? Pull a runaway bride, except it would be a runaway maid of honor? I’d be hightailing it out of here with flower petals trailing from my wheels. Actually, that doesn’t sound half bad. I wipe a bead of sweat from my forehead with the handkerchief Mema tucked into my bouquet. It’s about five thousand degrees too hot for nuptials.

“Okay, wedding party, one more shot and then we’re golden!” Coralee shouts from where she crouches on her knees in the sand by the lake. She’s trying her hand at photography. Apparently, that’s the quadruple threat in her plan to take over the world and become a famous celebrity. Now she can add photographer to her actor/singer/dancer résumé. Pretty soon, she’s going to over-qualify herself right out of the running. But that’s just my personal opinion, which I do not plan to tell my best friend. Coralee does not take criticism well. In fact, she could probably handle a live scorpion better than one word about her outfit, hair, or singing ability. One time, during a rehearsal for the spring musical at school, the chorus director told her to “maybe tone it down a bit,” and she snapped, “Excuse me? Do you even want people to come to this show?”

“Ellie, it’s not the zombie apocalypse.” She sighs. “Smile like you think somebody’s not about to eat your face.”

I blink in the hot Oklahoma sun. “Shut it, Coralee.” I give her my sweetest, most evil grin.

“Baby, you need a break?” Mom leans down from her spot two steps above me in the gazebo and tucks my hair behind my ear. Her cheeks are rosy from heat and happiness. Mema made both our dresses, but hers suits her to a T. It’s cream silk and sleeveless and stops at her knees. On anybody else it’d be plain, but on Mom it is perfection. I smile up at her, and she winks just as Coralee snaps a picture.

“Got it!” Coralee yells. “That’s a wrap, people. Now go get hitched!”

“There’s still time to make a run for it,” Hutch whispers to both of us. Coaching middle school football camp the last couple of weeks, since school ended, has given him a fierce farmer’s tan, but he still looks handsome in his white button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up. His tie is peach, like my dress. When Mom punches him in the shoulder, he grins and she blushes and I rock back on my wheels so I do not have to watch yet another display of affection. I love them both. I do. And it is their wedding day. But come on. They’re worse than middle schoolers.

Behind us, up near the tree line, gravel crunches and car doors slam. “Come on, let’s go hide.” Mom nudges my knee with hers before letting me take the lead down the dirt path to the tent they’ve set up by the water for the reception.

When Hutch and Mom started getting serious, I thought it might be weird having my gym teacher around all the time. But then it just… wasn’t. My world expanded to three after it being just Mom and me for so long. After a while I couldn’t even remember what it was like without Hutch mowing the lawn and challenging me to knuckle-cracking contests and stepping on his own two feet while Mom tried to teach him to line dance in our teeny tiny kitchen.

So when he stopped by the trailer while Mom was at the grocery store one afternoon and asked if we could have a chat out on the porch, I knew what was coming. All the most important conversations happen on the porch. It’s the place you go to iron out the wrinkles with your people. When you live in extra-close quarters like we do, you need a spot of neutral territory.

Hutch paced the length of the porch for about ten minutes until he bumped his head on the bug zapper and retreated to the rocking couch across from me. We sat without talking for so long that I started doing mini push-ups in my wheelchair to have something to do.

“You’re getting good at those,” he said, finally.

I did my best Schwarzenegger impression. “Yeah, I’m gonna get ripped.”

He gave me a shaky laugh. “I guess I should take credit when you become a world-famous bodybuilder.”

I shook my head. Hutch has been the best physical therapist I’ve ever had. But I couldn’t let it go to his head. “It’s twenty percent coaching, eighty percent sheer willpower.” I patted his arm. “You’re all right, though. My PT back in Nashville had me take ten steps in the gait trainer and call it a day. Pretty sure she thought any kind of exercise that made me stronger in my chair was a step back. Pun intended.”

Crickets. Man, if he didn’t get on with it soon, I’d have to propose to him myself.

“I hope”—he stopped and cleared his throat—“I might become more to you than just your PT.”

“You’re a champ at lawn care.” I couldn’t help myself.

“That too, but also, I mean….” He stood and started pacing again. “Your mom and I have been spending a lot of time together, and when two people like to spend time together and, um, like each other like your mom and I do, we…” He trailed off, looking lost. “Ellie, do you know what I’m trying to say?”

“Yeah, sure. You like Mom and Mom likes you and you want to be a part of our lives permanently.”

He nodded, visibly relieved.

“Like me and Bert and Coralee. Best friends, right?”

He rubbed both hands over his face like he wished he could peel it right off. I chuckled and surrendered. There’s only so much tween torture a man can take.

“I’m kidding. You want to marry my mom, right?”

He collapsed onto the rocking couch, sending it squeaking back and forth. “Yes. I want to be part of your family in whatever way you will let me, because I think you’re pretty cool. Slightly wicked with what you just did there, but also cool and stubborn and an incredible baker, and I’d be honored if you’d let me into your inner circle.”

I looked him up and down, his shaved head shiny in the early spring air, his knee bouncing the same way mine does when I’m nervous, and I nodded.



“Yeah, okay. We’ll let you in.”

He heaved a huge sigh and pulled out two glazed tea cakes from Mimi’s Café in town that he must’ve stashed out here earlier. Total bribery, but I didn’t care. I wonder if I still would have gotten one if I’d said no. Probably. Hutch is that kind of guy.

“Hey, man, the war’s not over yet. You’ve still got to get Mom to say yes.”

“Are you kidding?” he said, grinning and taking a huge bite of pastry. “After this, proposing to Alice will be a piece of cake.”

“Speaking of cake,” I said, and pointed to a sizable crumb stuck to his chin.

Looking over at him now, under the tent with his arm over Mom’s shoulder, I have no doubt I made the right decision. I don’t remember what it was like before my real dad left. I was just a baby. But whatever it was like, it couldn’t have been as good. Because how could you have this and ever let it go?

Dad. My stomach clenches hard like a sinkhole swallowing up all the good vibes. I roll to the edge of the tent and look out over the calm water. I cannot and will not think about him right now. That’s what tomorrow’s for. And every day after that for the next month.

“Girl!” Coralee shouts with her camera held over her head like a trophy. “You look awesome in these!”

I’m not great with compliments, so I’m still trying to figure out what to say to that when she adds, “I rock at this picture-taking thing.” I smack her arm, but it’s good. Coralee is distracting. She brings me back to the present—to the moment I get to watch my mom on the happiest day of her life, second only to when she had me, of course.

Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide

Time to Roll

By Jamie Sumner

About the Book

It’s going to be a long summer for twelve-year-old Ellie Cowan. Ellie’s mom just married Ellie’s favorite teacher and physical therapist, and they’re about to leave on a six-week honeymoon. That would be great news, except they’re leaving Ellie with her absentee dad while they’re gone. Ellie’s dad hardly knows her, and she hates that he treats her like she’s fragile because she uses a wheelchair. Plus, her two half-brothers create chaos in the house.

So, when Ellie’s best friend, Coralee, asks for Ellie’s help winning the Little Miss Boots and Bows pageant, Ellie agrees (even though pageants make her squirm). Coralee needs her, and at least the pageant will keep her out of the house and away from her dad. Things take a surprising turn, though, when the pageant director pressures Ellie to enter the pageant too. Ellie hates being in the spotlight, but being treated like an invalid by the director—and her dad—is even worse. Ellie decides to compete in the pageant, but can she find a way to do it on her own terms? And will her friendship with Coralee survive the competition?

Discussion Questions

1. Ellie, Coralee, and Bert are all very different from each other, but become best friends anyway. What do you think draws them to one another? Do you have a best friend or friends? How are you similar and different? Why are you drawn to one another?

2. In what ways are Bert, Coralee, and Ellie different from other kids? Have you ever felt like you were different from most of the people around you? What made you feel that way?

3. Who was your favorite character in this novel? Why? If you read Roll with It, who was your favorite character in that novel? If you had a different favorite character in each book, explain why your feelings changed.

4. Even though Ellie and Bert are not beauty pageant fans, they agree to help Coralee with the pageant. Why do they do this? Have you ever done something like this for a friend, or has a friend ever done something like this for you? What was it? How did it turn out?

5. Ellie thinks that “Coralee’s got her own kind of deep magic. But she’s determined not to see it until a committee tells her it’s true.” (Chapter fourteen) What does she mean by this? In what ways does Ellie think Coralee is magical? Why can’t Coralee see it herself?

6. When Coralee and Ellie get in a fight, they both end up saying things they regret later. What do they fight about? Why do you think they say mean things to each other? How do Ellie and Coralee eventually make up?

7. After Ellie and Coralee fight, Mema tells Ellie, “‘You only get one or two really good friends in a lifetime. I mean the kind that stick around through thick and thin and fightin’ and fun. One or two. Three, if you’re lucky. That’s it.’” (Chapter sixteen) How do you think a person can tell when they’ve found this type of friend?

8. Ellie says, “The thing about cerebral palsy is that I’ve lived with it every day of my life, so I’m used to it. But to the rest of the world, it’s a surprise. And not usually a good one.” (Chapter three) What does Ellie means by this? In what ways do people treat Ellie differently from other kids?

9. At the first Little Miss Boots and Bows Pageant rehearsal with Coralee, Ellie gets angry when the pageant director, Rae Ann, touches her wheelchair without permission. Why is this such an important boundary for Ellie?

10. People with disabilities are often treated differently because of stereotypes about what they are and are not capable of doing. Give some examples of this happening to Ellie from the novel. Why do you think people do this? What are some ways that you can work against these kinds of stereotypes?

11. Early in the book, Ellie thinks, “There is nothing, I repeat nothing, as satisfying as blasting through walls that were made to hold you back.” (Chapter three) What does Ellie mean by this? What walls has Ellie had to blast through? Have you ever had to blast through walls that were meant to hold you back? Explain.

12. Ellie thinks that pageants are almost like “cults” and doesn’t approve of them. Why does Ellie decide to do the pageant anyway? Why are pageants so important to Coralee?

13. After the pageant director’s attempt to set up a wheelchair ramp for Ellie ends in disaster, Ellie thinks, “It’s the roll of shame. Except they should be ashamed, not me—Rae Ann and Coralee and all of them with their deep looks of concern and not an ounce of understanding.” (Chapter eleven) What does Ellie mean by this? What don’t Coralee and Rae Ann understand?

14. After the incident with the wheelchair ramp, Ellie vows never to go back to the pageant. Coralee, however, says “‘This was just a teensy bump.’” (Chapter eleven) Why do you think Coralee can’t see the problem? How does it make Ellie feel?

15. Ellie’s new friend Maya tells her, “‘Life is a test. Make sure you take it on your own terms.’” (Chapter eighteen) What does Maya mean by this? What does it look like to take life on your own terms? Why do you think Maya shares this with Ellie?

16. What does Ellie do during the talent portion of the pageant? Were you surprised? Why do you think she chooses this as her talent? How do her friends and family react?

17. How does baking make Ellie feel? What in your life makes you feel like this?

18. Ellie believes that “Good food can . . . smooth over all the moods.” (Chapter eight) Do you agree with this statement? In what ways does good food help in your life?

19. What is Ellie’s relationship like with her dad? How is it different from Ellie’s relationship with her mom? Do you ever struggle to relate to your parents or other adults in your life? Why? How do you navigate that?

20. Ellie believes her dad thinks she’s “pathetic.” Do you think she’s right? Do you think Ellie’s dad is as bad as she thinks he is? Provide evidence from the book to support your answer.

21. Ellie claims that she is “the opposite of a needy kid . . . fully self-sufficient.” (Chapter four) Is she? Do you think anyone is fully self-sufficient? Explain.

22. If you’ve read the first book in the series, Roll with It, how do you think Ellie has changed since that book? How is she the same?

Extension Activities

1. In Time to Roll, Ellie discovers that the theater where the Little Miss Boots and Bows Pageant is held is not accessible for her wheelchair. Research what is needed to make a space accessible for people in wheelchairs (or another disability of your choice). Then, create a poster or report assessing the accessibility of important places in your community: your school, your local park, the grocery store, YMCA, etc. If you’d like, you can include video clips or photographs in your report.

2. Throughout both Roll with It and Time to Roll, Ellie writes letters to famous bakers. Discuss with a partner or small group why you think Ellie does this. Then write a letter to a public figure who is important to you.

3. Design your own beauty pageant. What would you call your pageant? What events would it have? What do you think are the key things that show you someone is worthy of being celebrated? Create a poster advertising your pageant.

4. Choose a supporting character from the book and write a short story about an event in that person’s life: Coralee, Maya, Bert, Mema, Ellie’s mom, etc. Be sure to think about what your chosen character is like as a person, what’s important to them, and what challenges they might face.

5. Imagine you are Bert or Coralee. Write a letter to a friend describing your friend Ellie. If you’d like, you can draw or paint a picture of Ellie to include with your letter.

6. Create a “book commercial” encouraging other kids to read Time to Roll. You can do this either as a poster or a video. Be sure to give potential readers a good sense of what the book is about and why they will enjoy reading it.

7. The pageant director, Rae Ann, calls Ellie her “role model” because “‘She might be wheelchair-bound, but she gets up there on that stage and works just as hard as the rest of them.’” (Chapter eighteen) Ellie is deeply offended by this: “Wheelchair-bound? Is she kidding me? Like my chair is some torture device instead of the means of freedom that lets me navigate my entire life?” Research the technology available to assist people with disabilities today, and then write an essay about the ways that technology can help people with disabilities navigate the world.

Chris Clark is a writer and reading teacher who lives with her family in coastal Maine.
This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.

About The Author

Photograph © Bethany Rogers

Jamie Sumner is the author of Roll with ItTime to Roll, Rolling OnTune It OutOne Kid’s TrashThe Summer of JuneMaid for ItDeep Water, and Please Pay Attention. Her work has appeared in The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and other publications. She loves stories that celebrate the grit and beauty in all kids. She is also the mother of a son with cerebral palsy and has written extensively about parenting a child with special needs. She and her family live in Nashville, Tennessee. Visit her at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (April 23, 2024)
  • Length: 224 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781665918602
  • Grades: 5 and up
  • Ages: 10 - 99
  • Lexile ® 750L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®
  • Fountas & Pinnell™ W These books have been officially leveled by using the F&P Text Level Gradient™ Leveling System

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Raves and Reviews

Praise for Roll with It

“A big-hearted story that’s as sweet as it is awesome.” —R.J. Palacio, author of Wonder

"Ellie is filled with ideas for delicious baked goods, but she can’t quite figure out the recipe to make her family feel whole again. Filled with heart and spirit—I love this book.” —Kristin O'Donnell Tubb, author of The Story Collector series and A Dog Like Daisy

"My son Jacob says: 'I usually read books about wizards and magic, but I liked this a lot. I liked the scenes and I wanted to hang out with Ellie. I'm reading it a second time now.'"—Deb Perelman, creator of Smitten Kitchen

* "Drawing on her own experiences with her son, who has cerebral palsy, debut author Sumner doesn’t sugarcoat Ellie’s daily challenges—social, emotional, and physical—including navigating showers and crowded classrooms. . . . Ellie is easy to champion, and her story reminds readers that life’s burdens are always lighter with friends and family—and a good piece of pie—at the ready."

– Publishers Weekly, starred review

* “Her voice equal parts vulnerable, reflective, and deliciously wry, Ellie is refreshingly complex. Kids navigating disabilities may find her frank frustration with inaccessibility, illness, and patronization particularly cathartic, but readers with and without disabilities will recognize her desire to belong. The mother of a son with CP, the author portrays Ellie and her mom's loving but fraught relationship with achingly vivid accuracy, bringing the tension between Ellie's craving for independence and her mother's fears to a satisfying resolution. . . . An honest, emotionally rich take on disability, family, and growing up.”

– Kirkus Reviews, starred review

* “Ellie takes on life head first, and her first-person, present-tense narrative reveals a feisty, dynamic character surrounded by well-rounded characters just as appealing as she is. The plot moves swiftly, and it's refreshing that the story's focus is less on Ellie's disability and more on her gradual ability to learn how to ‘roll with’ the situations that life throws one's way.”

– Booklist, starred review

“A heartfelt and humorous glimpse into the life of a girl with cerebral palsy who is determined to make her mark on a world that often perceives her as limited because of her disability. . . . The challenges faced by youth like Ellie are underrepresented in children’s literature; highly recommended for middle grade collections.”

– School Library Journal

“Sumner, whose son has cerebral palsy, writes Ellie without sitcom clichés and with authentic near-teen sass. The telling details of wheelchair use, health risks, and social challenges ring true but don’t overshadow the characterization of Ellie as a person, who loves to bake even more than she likes to snark and whose narration is spirited and inviting. Fans of Kate DiCamillo will especially appreciate this story of unexpected friendship and belonging.”


Awards and Honors

  • Kansas NEA Reading Circle List Junior Title

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