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Learning to Fall

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When twelve-year-old Daphne is sent to stay with her estranged father, she can’t overcome her fears—and trust her dad again—until she learns what really happened when he didn’t show up for her at a skatepark years ago.

Daphne doesn’t want to be stuck in Oakland with her dad. She wants to get on the first plane to Prague, where her mom is shooting a movie.

Armed with her grandparents’ phone number and strict instructions from her mom to call them if her dad starts drinking again, Daphne has no problem being cold to him. She’s barely talked to him in three years, after all. But there’s one thing Daphne can’t keep herself from doing: joining her dad and her new friend Arlo at a weekly skate session.

When her dad promises to teach her how to ollie and she lands the trick, Daphne starts to believe in him again. He starts to show up for her, and Daphne learns things are not as black and white with her dad as she used to think. The way Daphne’s dad tells it, skating is all about accepting failure and moving on. But can Daphne really let go of her dad’s past mistakes? Either way, she learns life is a lot like skating: it’s all about getting back up after you fall.

264 pages, Hardcover

Published September 6, 2022

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Sally Engelfried

2 books6 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 33 reviews
Profile Image for Nev.
1,109 reviews152 followers
December 6, 2022
I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS. Learning to Fall follows 12-year-old Daphne as she’s reconnecting with her father for the first time in years after he’s gotten sober. Through spending time with her dad she rediscovers her love of skateboarding and learns new things about her family’s past.

AHHH. Everything about this book just worked for me. The explanation of why Daphne stopped skateboarding, the slow ways that she starts to let her dad in again, her relationship with her grandparents, making new friends, the camaraderie between skateboarders. It was all great to see. Also, Daphne’s perseverance and journey when it came to learning new tricks was really rewarding to read. If you love Middle Grade books you need to read this. It’s just so lovely.

I’m so impressed that this was a debut. Sally Engelfried, please write a hundred more books.
Profile Image for Laura.
1,401 reviews209 followers
December 7, 2022

I LOVED this book. It's a little book with big topics--like divorce, alcoholism, communication, and trust. It's all here! Written in an easy to read, honest style with strong, relatable, easy to root for characters. Characters who ride, soar, and fall on a board and in life.

"Everyone falls. It's the picking yourself up again that counts."

Skateboarding is life! Come feel the "scrape-slam!" and "click-clack" of the board.

Read this book.

Profile Image for Gina Adams.
633 reviews56 followers
September 15, 2022
4.5 stars!!

Find my review here as part of my bookstagram tour stop for this book :)
Profile Image for Melissa Dassori.
Author 1 book18 followers
May 18, 2022
The protagonist in Sally Englefried's wonderful debut grabbed me from the first pages. 12 year old Daphne is fully realized, endearing and believable as a girl figuring out if and how to trust the father who has repeatedly let her down. Spirited and nervous at the same time, Daphne befriends her summer neighbor, Arlo, and reconnects with her dad, both through skateboarding, and the details of her beginning to embrace her father's passion for the sport and understand his struggles with alcoholism add wonderful depth to the book. This is a story about the rocky road to trust, commitment, and a family's imperfect love, and I found myself totally entranced by the story. I highly recommend this unique middle grade novel--I just loved it!

Thanks to NetGalley and LBYR for the advance copy.
Profile Image for Stacy.
Author 3 books72 followers
September 7, 2022
A wonderful Middle Grade story full of heart, hope and what it means to learn how to forgive and trust yourself. I fell in love from Daphne from page 1 and found myself cheering for her as she learns to trust the father who’s done nothing but let her down, befriends her neighbor Arlo, and rekindles her love of skateboarding, all while discovering she’s capable of more than she thinks. It’s impossible not to fall for Engelfried’s charming debut, Learning to Fall.
Profile Image for Erica.
1,073 reviews26 followers
June 5, 2022
I read an ARC of this book by a local author and loved how much it felt like the people and places I meet, see, and know. For anyone not living here in Oakland, California, I will tell you that it sets an authentic, realistic scene of a friendly, working-class residential neighborhood in the present-time - one of the many mini-neighborhoods we have here.

I found the story relevant, captivating, resonant, & joyful!

Twelve-year-old Daphne's attempts to cope with her recently-sober dad is relevant to middle-grade readers - most of them will have at least one friend (or more) who lives with a parent coping with some sort of substance use, if it's not their own family. (I see that according to aacap.org; "one in five adult Americans have lived with an alcoholic relative while growing up.")

Many readers seem to enjoy hyper-dramatic problem novels - ones where the main character has an abusive, erratic, or violent parent (ex: Fighting Words & The War That Saved My Life,), neglectful, self-centered parent(s) (ex: We Dream of Space or The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise), or absentee parents (ex: The Raymie Nightingale Three-Book Collection).

Unlike those, this story revolves around the lack of dependability and the absence of *one* of the child's two parents. The rock-solid dependability of the other parent can't heal all the wounds - readers can see Daphne's specific anxiety, distrust, and confusion that come up occasionally even though she is otherwise a self-aware, confident, assured young person. I have a hunch that readers will relate to this very well - the feeling that you are basically fine, but you can see you've got a few hang-ups.

In Learning to Fall, readers see how the unstable parent - her father - slowly (& unevenly) regains stability, and how the different members of the extended family respond or react to support him or to keep her safe. It's a realistic portrayal of a tightly faithful inter-generational friend group that is happy to expand to include her arrival, and provides the entirety of the "community" the main character experiences during her summer with her dad. This seems like an accurate depiction of the way families and communities often function now.

I'm also thinking of other books about getting re-acquainted with an absentee parent; One Crazy Summer, Outside Beauty, The Parent Trap (lol), and I'm wondering about how many young readers are children of divorce, and need examples of ways to re-connect with the parent who left - the parent who clearly messed up and needs to make amends, repair harm done, and rebuild trust.

For all of those people, I think the mutual JOYFULNESS Daphne and her dad experience will be hopeful and inspiring.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Ms. Yingling.
1,716 reviews484 followers
October 29, 2022
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Daphne lives with her mother, an aspiring actress, in Los Angeles, but when her mother gets a part in an important picture filming in Prague, she finds herself on a plane to the Oakland to stay with the father that she hasn't seen in two years. Her father had some problems with alcohol that lead to her parents' divorce, and he let her down very badly on her birthday a few years previously, not showing up to a skate park when he said he would, so he wasn't there when she tried to skate and broke her arm. She has decided that she will spend the summer being very aloof, but it is hard. With the help of his parents, her father has gotten a house he is fixing up. It's next door to his best friend, Gus, who has helped him through a lot of his problems and is also fixing up his house. Gus' girlfriend, Rusty, has a son, Arlo, who also likes to skate. At one point, Daphne's father skated for a living, but his alcoholism and bad choices brought that to an end. Now, he is looking for jobs in the tech field after going back to school, so often has job interviews. Daphne is fine to hang out with Arlo, or go to her grandparents' house. Her grandmother is very glad to see her again, since Daphne spent a lot of time with them when she was very young, even though she doesn't remember them. Her long range plan, however, is to ditch her father and go to Prague to be with her mother on the set. Her mother keeps putting her off, which doesn't improve her mood. Daphne was made fun of when she tried to skate at a park back in LA, and was traumatized by that and by breaking her arm, so is reluctant to do many tricks or "drop in" (See the cover. I think this is a realistic fear!), even though she is able to practice a bit in Gus' bowl in his backyard. Arlo is willing to teach her, as is her father, and she reluctantly takes help from both of them. Her father is very stressed by his job search, and at one point Daphne calls her grandmother because she is worried that her father might start drinking. He doesn't, but needs help from his AA sponsor. He does apologize to Daphne for his current frustration as well as for his past neglect. He even plans a camping and skating trip to make it up to her, but when he lands a new job and is given an opportunity to earn some extra money by filling in for someone else, he plans on sending Daphne with Gus, Arlo and Rusty while he stays in Oakland to work. This angers Daphne, who is all set to take off for Prague. Will Daphne be able to conquer her fears and learn to skate, and will she be able to navigate a new relationship with her father?
Strengths: There just are not enough skateboarding books, although I was glad to see Roe's Air earlier this year. Daphne's feelings about skateboarding are realistically complicated-- she likes to skate, but feel she can't do tricks, and she almost doesn't want to learn because her father likes to skate and she's mad at her father. At the same time, she craves his attention and approval, so wants to learn from him. Watching her cope with his job search and struggles not to drink was hard but something that many young readers may face from time to time with their own parents. Certainly, many tweens have to deal with spending the summer with a noncustodial parents and will understand Daphne's awkwardness. Arlo is a good friend, and I really enjoyed the grandparents, who tried so hard to be fair to both of Daphne's parents. The skating details are exquisite, and the Oakland setting is well described. This was a very fun book to read even if you aren't interested in skateboarding and reminded me a bit of Zarr's A Song Called Home.
Weaknesses: While I really enjoyed this one, the first chapter or two seemed vaguely confusing.
What I really think: It is a rare and wonderful occurrence to find a skateboarding book; I've been asking for more on this topic since I began blogging in 2006. In fact, it occurred to me that Daphne's father reminded me very strongly of one of my students who is probably now old enough to have a middle school aged daughter! Definitely purchasing a copy and am looking forward to seeing more books by this author.
Profile Image for Kellye Crocker.
Author 1 book15 followers
August 11, 2022
A moving story about family, forgiveness, and skateboarding. Here are just a few things I loved about this middle-grade novel:

1. The main character.
Daphne and her dad were supposed to celebrate her 10th birthday skateboarding. But he didn’t show and some other dad had to help her when she broke her arm. Daphne’s relationship with her dad snapped then, too.

She's 12 now and hasn’t seen him in three years. As you might expect, she’s less-than-thrilled to spend the summer with him while her mom films a movie in Prague.

Initially, Daphne barely tolerates her dad.. (The key to the “Cold Fish,” she says, is making your eyes as dead as possible.) When she continues acting this way, even while warming to him, it’s realistic and poignant. Readers always know what Daphne’s feeling—even if she can’t put it into words—and why she’s acting as she is. Dad, a recovering alcoholic, knows he must regain her trust, and he’s up for the challenge.

2. Mom, Dad and Other Adults
Daphne’s nontraditional parents are a refreshing change from those in many middle grade novels. For most of Daphne’s life, it’s been just her and Mom, an actress who hopes to finally score her big break. They’ve always shared a bedroom—except for a few months when they didn’t have a home and crashed with friends.

Dad is a skateboarder who once dreamed of going pro. Since getting sober, his parents have helped him buy a house in Oakland, and he’s lovingly prepared Daphne’s room. But as the book begins, he’s struggling to find a job.

Both are loving parents who’ve made mistakes, as we all have.

Gus, Dad’s longtime friend and neighbor, offers warm support and a super-cool skate bowl in his backyard. Daphne doesn’t remember her paternal grandparents but soon bonds with them.

3. Themes
Who doesn’t love a redemption story? Dad’s efforts to make amends and re-establish a relationship with Daphne are believable and inspiring, and he does a good job of explaining his alcoholism and one-day-at-a-time recovery to Daphne.

Daphne eventually realizes, though, that she needs to speak up about her feelings and ask the hard questions she’s avoided for years. Finding the courage to do so with each parent offers important revelations that reinforce the importance of communication.

4. Ollie, nollie, kickflip, shuvit.
Daphne abandoned skating after breaking her arm, but as soon as she arrives at Dad’s, the scrape-slam of wheels on Gus’ bowl calls to her. (Dad has an extra board and helmet for her.) Her new skating friend, Arlo, and the older guys who skate at Gus’ are accepting and encouraging, but Daphne remains traumatized from the accident that broke her arm. Eventually, she agrees to learn from Dad. His first lesson: How to fall safely and the importance of getting up again. The metaphor isn’t lost on Daphne. The skating scenes, brimming with sensory detail, offer readers a vicarious thrill, and it’s fun to see a girl in this role. Young readers will cheer Daphne’s bravery, grit and determination.

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion. I don’t post about books that I didn’t finish or enjoy.
Profile Image for The Page Ladies.
733 reviews37 followers
September 14, 2022
Book Review…Learning to Fall by Sally Engelfried

Daphne doesn't want to be stuck in Oakland with her dad. Armed with her grandparents’ phone number and strict instructions from her mom to call them if her dad starts drinking again. But there's one thing Daphne can't keep herself from doing: joining her dad at a weekly skate session.
When her dad teaches her how to ollie and she lands the trick, Daphne starts to believe in him again. The way Daphne’s dad tells it, skating is all about accepting failure and moving on. But can Daphne really let go of her dad’s past mistakes?

Learning to Fall I'd a wonderful story! The writing is great and the characters are flawed, believable and real. Daphne is a wonderful character and so easy to relate to. The problems she deals with aren't easy even for an adult but watching her learn to trust her dad again and seeing their relationship change throughout the book is a wonderful thing to see. I also enjoyed her new friend Arlo. He's a sweet kid. Anyone would be lucky to have him as a friend! It's a quick fun heartfelt read that will be great for the kids! Thank you Little Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and Sally Engelfried for sharing this book with me!

Profile Image for Jaime.
65 reviews
May 30, 2022
This was such a great book about tough family relationships, learning to trust yourself, daring to trust others, and SKATEBOARDING.

When Daphne's mom receives her dream role in a movie, Daphne's forced to spend the summer with her Dad, an old skater and recovering alcoholic-the guy that let her down time and time again, the guy that made her give up on skating.

Throughout the summer, not only is Daphne surprised to find herself learning to love skating again, she's surprised at how her feelings change as she truly gets to know her father. The development of their relationship was beautifully written, and her father felt very real and complex. Daphne was very believable. Her mix of insecurity and bravery had me rooting for her the whole way.

I also loved her new friend Arlo, a budding filmmaker, and all-around cool kid. He was so sweet and supportive, while still being real. Any kid would be lucky to have a friend like that.

Oh, and the skateboarding sequences were all so fun and vividly written!

This book was wonderfully written and sensitive, filled with believable and flawed, but endearing, characters. I will definitely be recommending this to middle grade students!
Profile Image for Laura.
2,764 reviews82 followers
August 26, 2022
This is a story of being betrayed. Daphne didn’t realize how bad her father’s drinking was, and thought that every time he told her he would come and be with her, he would. So when she broke her arm, while trying to do skating tricks, when he was supposed to be there, she never forgave him. It didn’t help that he didn’t come and visit after that.

So, when, three years later, she has to stay with him all summer, while her mother is off filming a movie, she resent him, doesn’t want to talk to him, and certainly doesn’t want him to know that she missing skating with him.

I love that this is a story of a girl who is learning tricks on her skateboard, and though she is shy about it, it isn’t because she is a girl, but why what happened when she broke her arm.

I also like how she slowly warms to her father, around the love of skateboards, and how things work out in the end.

Good quick read, and very heartfelt, and it made me wish the story didn’t end quite so soon, and we could hang out a little longer.

Thanks to Netgalley for making this book available for an honest review.
Profile Image for Melanie Dulaney.
1,486 reviews72 followers
June 25, 2022
The skateboarder standing at the top of the bowl, ready to drop in will draw many readers when they see the cover. The heartfelt story of restoring relationships and learning to communicate, all with skateboarding as the backdrop and analogy will keep middle grade students reading all the way to the satisfying end. Daphne and her wanna-be actress mom are making out OK without her dad in the picture and when the opportunity to be in a big budget movie comes along, she isn’t sure she wants to stay with a father who has been basically out of the picture for much of her life. But off to dad’s house she goes, giving him the cold shoulder at the start and also avoiding anything to do with skateboarding since that had been their thing when he was around. Slowly, the two learn to trust each other again and along the way, Daphne also gains a new friend and rediscovers her love of skating and the fact that learning to fall will help you know that you truly can get up and try again when you fail.

Thanks for sending Twitter arc-sharing group a print arc, Sally Engelfried!
Profile Image for Sonja Thomas.
Author 11 books16 followers
July 12, 2022
From the very first paragraph—“Daphne doesn’t want to be stuck in Oakland with her dad. She wants to get on the first plane to Prague, where her mom is shooting a movie.”—I was hooked and finished reading LEARNING TO FALL in one sitting!

Twelve-year-old Daphne is such a relatable, likable character, I found myself cheering for her out loud and holding my breath during the ups and downs of her journey. Navigating how to forgive and whether or not to trust a loved one again who’s repeatedly let you down because of alcoholism is a difficult topic that the author handles wonderfully, while seamlessly weaving in Daphne’s struggle and joy of skateboarding. I highly recommend this heartfelt middle grade debut, especially for librarians, educators, and parents to share with the young readers in their lives.

Thank you to author, Sally Engelfried, and the publisher for an advanced copy of this MUST READ book!
Profile Image for Sylvia.
Author 5 books114 followers
July 6, 2022
A wise, fun, heartfelt story about learning to trust both oneself and those that have let one down. Twelve-year-old Daphne is sent to live with her father for the summer, a father who wasn't there for her as a child or since her parents split due to his alcoholism, but who is now sober and trying to mend their relationship. Daphne rekindles her love of skating and makes a new friend, while she and her father work to repair their relationship. This novel deals with tough issues in a pitch-perfect way, and readers will cheer Daphne on as she learns and masters the tricks she's so eager to learn and root for her as she learns about love and responsibility.
Profile Image for Donna.
1,502 reviews
October 22, 2022
Quick story about learning to trust, family, and getting back on the board.
Daphne lives with her mom and hasn't seen her dad in years. When her mom gets an acting job out of the country, Daphne goes to Oakdale to live with her father, a recovering alcoholic, for the summer. Her father is the one who taught her to love skateboarding. But her was never around to teach and help her. The day she fell off the board and broke her wrist was a day he was supposed to show up. Since then she hasn't really trusted him. Can she trust him now? Can she let go of the resentment she has and get to know her father?
41 reviews1 follower
September 9, 2022
Daphne’s mom is off to Prague to act in her first major role leaving Daphne to spend the summer with her father who has been out of the picture for three years due to his struggles with alcoholism. Daphne is angry with her father for not showing up for a skateboarding session that led to a broken arm along with a broken heart. Excellent story of dealing with disappointments, being honest with your feelings and healing old wounds. Skateboarding terms and descriptions of tricks are sprinkled throughout the story and will be appreciated by newbies to the sport and those who have been classically trained. Great story for middle grade readers.
1,284 reviews10 followers
November 24, 2022
What is Daphne doing now? How did the Labor Day skate trip go? Is her dad still successful at his new job? Did Daphne’s mom get any other film roles? So many questions about what happens after this story ends. For me, that is a sign of a great book. I can’t forget about the characters. I can’t move on to the next book right away because I want to keep living in Daphne’s world. This is an excellent debut novel and I can’t wait to read more by this author. And skateboarding, yes! So excited for this book.
Profile Image for Emily Wallace.
708 reviews
December 5, 2022
I really enjoyed this middle school title. As a matter of fact if they hadn't given the kids ages I would say that my 8th graders would love this one. (They seem to be turned away from reading about younger kids) I loved learning about skateboarding as I read. I also loved how the characters struggles were realistic. None were "perfect". It was a book about and for middle schoolers. Sometimes they fall flat, but my students love this one! (Well, 8th grade is indifferent)
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Profile Image for Nancy.
Author 3 books33 followers
February 16, 2023
Fast-paced, memorable story about imperfection and tough family dynamics and how love and hard work can pave a path forward. Kids will be hooked by the super fun skate park scenes, camaraderie, and lingo. Daphne (and all the characters) are multilayered and likable, even as they make mistakes before the reader's eyes. Humor, heart, and persistence weave together beautifully in this story about the importance of forgiveness, especially forgiving ourselves. I loved it! I hope throngs of kids pick this one up and "drop in"!
January 6, 2023
I could not put this book down. 12 year old Daphne is incredibly relatable, honest, and real as she struggles to fix the relationship with her father and overcome her fear of skateboarding. The obstacles Daphne faces, and the new relationships she builds over the story are just what she needs, and the story handles complex topics, like divorce and addiction in an age appropriate and meaningful way.

This book is wonderfully written and easy to read. Highly recommend!
Profile Image for Karen.
1,090 reviews6 followers
February 22, 2023
Daphne is spending the summer with her estranged dad, a recovering alcoholic, while her mom shoots a movie in Europe. Daphne is mad at her dad for abandoning her. The day he promised to teach her to skateboard and he didn’t show up is her worst memory. As they learn to trust each other, Daphne also finally gets her chance to learn the skateboard tricks she’s always wanted to do. Even if you’re not into skateboarding, you’ll love learning about skateboard seshes and ollies and drop-ins.
109 reviews
September 12, 2022
I'm leaving this review for my 11-year-old daughter. She loved the book and couldn't stop talking about it during dinner. She kept saying it was so good, and trying to convince me to read it so we can talk about it together (So it's now going on my tbr list because I love encouraging her to read.) It seems to really have connected with her on some level, and that's a lovely thing to see.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
Author 2 books25 followers
January 13, 2023
A heartfelt, fabulous read about Daphne spending a summer with her estranged father, who has been sober for two years. I loved the relationships she builds with the neighbors and her grandparents, and all the descriptions of skateboarding. Engelfried does a beautiful job of slowly building trust between Daphne and her dad, including a great twist at the end.
1 review
May 14, 2022
12-year-old Daphne's attitude, a pitch-perfect combo of resentment and insight, exactly captures that age when you start to see your parents as imperfect human beings but can't yet forgive them for it. Will be especially beloved by skaters and anyone from Oakland, California.
Profile Image for Erin.
61 reviews1 follower
December 18, 2022
Read this with my ten year old daughter who loves to skateboard. She really wants a follow up book with these characters. Fun read. Great message. I love to watch her skateboard because it’s all about falling and failing but getting back up and doing it again. Great message of the book.
Profile Image for Steph.
4,671 reviews51 followers
March 11, 2023
“Wait. Is everything like skating?”
“Yes,” Dad said. “Everything.”

Even for those who may never find themselves on a skateboard (aka both of us,) Learning to Fall is a reminder that no matter how many times we fall it’s important to get back up.

5 heartfelt stars!
Profile Image for Hanna Collins.
49 reviews10 followers
April 4, 2023
Oh boy. This one gave me all the feels. Wanting to strangle both parents at different points…wanting to hug Daphne. Loved the real world issues and the way they were resolved and unresolved. Hope to read more from this author.
Profile Image for joe.
107 reviews1 follower
May 19, 2022
cute book with a good message! really easy to read and comprehend even though it deals with tough topics. really awesome for a debut! *read as an ARC from Little Brown Young Readers
Displaying 1 - 30 of 33 reviews

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