Ideas for Learners Promoting Literacy, Inquiry, and Meaningful Learning Experiences
Tumbling by Caela Carter

Book Summary

Elite gymnasts are competing for five spots on the team for the upcoming Olympics. The story is told from five different points of view over the course of the two-day gymnastics trials. Each girl has strengths - and at least one weakness. Grace is the favorite to win. She's strong in almost every event, and she works hard to please her stern father/coach, as well as the political gatekeepers in the sport. The pressure to be perfect has costs, including health and friendships. Wilhemina has wanted this for so long, but she's almost too old. She's a specialist - focused on a particular event - and this is her last chance. Camille survived an accident and has come back with a lot of potential. She is struggling to balance her mother's dreams of gymnastics success with her boyfriend's wish that she quit the demanding sport forever.  Leigh is good - she's a contender for Grace's top spot, and Grace's best friend. Leigh's crush on a teammate is a secret she keeps from almost everyone - and the weight of the secret is holding her back. Monica is an underdog - socially, and competitively. She doesn't want to get her hopes too high, because it seems like everyone around her is better.
Tumbling book cover

Book Review

This book does a good job capturing the competitive tension, and how it manifests in different people - some people care a lot about others, while some people shut that out to focus only on themselves during the competition. Every girl doubts herself in some way, and has to find a way to move forward in a high-stress environment. While some characters seem more authentic than others, the pressure is illustrated clearly through the different characters' backgrounds and relationships.

Molly envied her a little: her innocence, her cocooned, protected happiness. which she did not appreciate, which you could not possess and appreciate at the same time. To love it, you first had to lose it."

Topics and Themes for this book:

  • Gymnastics; Competition
  • Self-Confidence; Being True to Yourself
  • Dating vs. Commitment to a Professional Goal
  • LGBTQ - concern about coming out as a public figure
  • Eating Disorders

Discussion Questions for this book:

The best discussion questions, of course, are generated by and contemplated by readers. These questions are designed to avoid major spoilers about the book, and to provide a starting point for teachers, parents, and student reading groups.

**Questions coming soon**

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