A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers learn about 504 plans, IEPs (individualized education plans), and the history of disability rights in the U.S. An author's note provides additional information on these topics. Readers also learn a bit about inspiring figures including Bill Pickett and Dr. Ron McNair.
Courage, communication, and teamwork are important themes. Recognize your feelings, find your voice, and speak up for yourself and others. People with disabilities need allies and advocates who listen to, respect, and support them.
Positive Role Models
Emmie is a fun, smart, and brave protagonist with a physical disability who lives a full life. She overcomes challenges with persistence, courage, and honest communication. Emmie's family and friends listen to, advocate for, and support her. Emmie is also also encouraged by various thoughtful and caring adults, most notably her history teacher and an older customer she meets through her online shop.
Emmie was born with spina bifida and uses a wheelchair. The book is notable for its thoughtful and well-rounded depiction of a protagonist with a physical disability who fights against stereotypes and ableism. There are other students with disabilities at school, including a good friend who has dyslexia. Emmie's best friend speaks Spanish and is a Latina of unspecified national origin. Names and other details suggest racial diversity among supporting characters.
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Violence & Scariness
Emmie's mom died two years ago as the result of a unspecified accident. Emmie loves to do tricks, like jumps and wheelies, which occasionally result in scratches and bruises. When she falls at school due to a questionable ramp, she's sent to the school nurse with a minor injury.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Emmie wonders whether her friendship with Devontae is something more. She feels a flutter when their fingers touch.
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Characters refer a few times to hearing or using swear words, but no words are specified. A customer orders a wheelchair bag with embroidery that includes an "s-word" (again not specified). Single instances of "sucks," "hell," and "crap."
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Products & Purchases
Brands mentioned include Coke, Flamin' Hot Cheetos, Ex-lax, and Dollar General. Customers order themed wheelchair bags inspired by movies such as The Avengers.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Air is an inspiring, fast-paced story focused on disability rights, family, and friendship. Adventurous 12-year-old Emmie uses a wheelchair, navigating inaccessible buildings and overprotective staff on top of the typical challenges of middle school. She and her dad are also struggling with grief since Emmie's mom died two years ago in an unspecified accident. The book is notable for presenting the thoughtful, well-rounded perspective of a protagonist with a physical disability. Courage, communication, and teamwork are themes throughout the story.
Is It Any Good?
Adventurous, brave, and smart Emmie takes center stage in this inspiring novel that focuses on family, friendship, disability rights, and grief. Air is notable for its nuanced, well-rounded depiction of a protagonist with a disability. Readers will cheer on Emmie and enjoy the action, suspense, and laughs as she practices her jumps and wheelies, runs an online business, and pursues her dreams. There's also a fun cast of supporting characters who have some interesting hobbies, including skate-boarding, bee-keeping, and rodeo.
Readers may be frustrated by the school principal and a few other characters, but most adults in the story are supportive and understanding. Grief is handled in an age-appropriate manner as Emmie, her dad, and her grandparents deal with their feelings in various ways. Readers will relate to typical middle school experiences, like working on a group project or wondering about a crush. They'll also learn about empathy by seeing things from Emmie's point of view. Kids who use wheelchairs for mobility will appreciate the positive representation. And those with other disabilities may also relate to some of Emmie's challenges. Helpful information about 504 plans, IEPs, and disability rights is woven throughout and included in an author's note as well.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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Our Editors Recommend
Books with Characters Who Have Physical Disabilities
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