Reaching for Sun — Cerebral Palsy

Reaching for Sun

Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, author

Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books, 2007,  Fiction, Middle Grade

Suitable for ages: 8 and up

Theme: Cerebral Palsy, Friendship, Disabilities, Single-families

Reaching for Sun is a touching story about Josie Wyatt, a 13-year-old girl, who has a disability.  The novel is written in free verse from Josie’s viewpoint.  It’s simplicity and charm linger with you.  I read it in one afternoon as I couldn’t put it down.   The book is divided into four sections, each representing a season, and the chapters are short.  Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, won the Schneider Family Book Award, which honors an author or illustrator for “an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.”   She certainly is deserving of the honor.

Josie has a mild form of cerebral palsy and wears leg braces.  She knows what it feels like to be different.  Josie attends special education classes at school, and physical, occupational and speech therapy at a clinic.  She experiences social isolation and teasing from classmates.  Josie wants to forget she has a disability.  What she wants most is to have one friend.  She lives on an aging farm with her busy mother, and Grandmother.  She loves the patch of woods around her, nature and working in the gardens with Gran, who teaches Josie everything she knows.   I believe verse works very well because it showcases Josie’s love of nature and the world around her.  To hear Josie comment, “I’m the wisteria vine growing up the arbor of this odd family, reaching for sun,” resonates with her world.

She finds a friend in 12-year-old geeky, Jordan who is a walking encyclopedia on science and nature.   Jordan lives in the neighborhood behind her farm with his widowed father, who has little time for his son.  Jordan is very accepting of Josie, and understands what it feels like not to fit in. They become best friends.  Jordan quickly becomes a member of  Josie’s family and spends hours with them in the gardens.  Says Josie, “He’s always excited about some new experiment to try in the garden or at the lab in his new basement.  But I’ve learned this fact for myself:  Days spin faster than a whirligig in a spring storm by the side of my new friend.”

Reaching for Sun is a beautiful coming-of-age novel that will captivate your heart.  Readers will enjoy spending time with Josie and learning about her world.   I applaud the author for not dwelling on Josie’s cerebral palsy.  Instead we watch Josie blossom throughout the year, and become more than her disability.

Tracie Vaughn Zimmer taught high school children with autism and middle grade school children with developmental and learning disabilities.   Tracie has created hundreds of guides for children’s and young adult literature that are available for free on her blog.  There is a special guide for Reaching for Sun in the Teacher Resources section.

Copyright (c) 2011,  Patricia Howe Tilton, All Rights Reserved

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

18 thoughts on “Reaching for Sun — Cerebral Palsy

    • Stacy, I’ve been searching for a book on CP for a while. The fact it was in free verse was a bonus. Lovely book. Actually, Amanda recommended it to me when she responded to another review I wrote. Yes, the author is a great educational resource — a great discovery. – Pat


  1. Oh man – this book sounds wonderful, but I wonder if it would make me cry. 😦 I love that it is written in free verse. That is a neat and interesting way to write. I love that you find books like this – they are important to read and important to help kids understand others. Another great find, Pat! 🙂


    • No tears Abby. This is a very uplifting book about a girl trying to live her life as normally as possible. It is so beautifully written. And, I have to give Amanda credit for suggesting the book to me. Great read! Thanks for your comments.


  2. What a beautiful story and review Pat. I could feel tears just reading this. A must read indeed. It’s wonderful how one can look beyond their difficulties to have a normal life and achieve goals.
    This is one I am going to look for in my library. Thanks for sharing Pat


  3. What a moving story and I tend to love books in free verse (where the story truly lends itself as this one so clearly does). I think I would really enjoy the connection with nature as well as Josie and Jordan’s friendship. This is most definitely going on my TBR list, Pat. Great to find one of the rare books on mild CP. Well done!


    • Joanna, you are spot on with your comments. That’s how I felt reading the book. Her love of nature is part of her finding herself. You forget she has CP, until the she rebels and finds a way out of her therapy sessions. The free verse works nicely. It is a beautiful book. You should check out the author’s website. I listed just the page on Josie, but you can see what else she writes. She love writing in verse. Pat


    • Thank you Amanda. I didn’t know your last name, but have tried to let some of the authors/bloggers know you had suggested the book to me in my responses to them. I am glad you liked the review. And, I loved this book! Thank you again for recommending it to me — the timing was right!


  4. Hi Pat,

    I loved this book as well. Amanda and I went through a period of devouring books written in free verse. (Now I’m writing one.) The funny thing was, before I knew about this book I had given my WIP a working title of “Reaching for Rain.” So when I saw this book, my jaw dropped. Anyway, I agree with your review on all counts. It’s a wonderful story.


    • Ruth,
      I was very grateful Amanda mentioned the book to me. I had been searching for some time for a book about a child with mild CP. There are a number about kids in wheelchairs, but few for those who aren’t. I was delighted to learn of Reaching for Sun. Glad to know you are trying to write in free verse. Like your title, by the way. It’s intriguing.


  5. This book sounds wonderful. I have long loved the true stories “Karen” and “With Love from Karen” about a girl growing up with more severe CP in the 1940s and 1950s. This book would bring a welcome touch of “now”. I have just requested the book from the library (it baffles me why so often the books people recommend on their blogs are available in small town libraries in the province, but not here in the city).

    Thank you for this.


    • Beth, I thought of you as I read this book. Know you love verse that is written well. Hope you are able to read it. I get frustrated with my library and the books that aren’t on the shelves that are outstanding. I’m known for asking them to order a book that they don’t have, and they are good about doing so, especially if the author is known.


  6. Patricia, thank you for the recommendation on this book. I am the mother of a not-quite 5 year old boy with mild-to-moderate CP, and I think so often about what the future (his, ours) will hold. The only certain thing is that he will surprise us all, as he does every day of his life! I love a good free-verse novel, and I will definitely be requesting a copy of this one from my local library.


    • Melissa, I was moved by your words. Your son is young and I know you must celebrate his growth. There is so much more known about the plasticity of the brain and new therapies being developed. Parents really have to be advocates and research. I hope you have a support system. I wish you the best. And, I think you’d like this book. Woodbine House publishing has some interesting books on the subject. They publih books for parents and children with special needs. Best, Patricia


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