Flipping Forward Twisting Backward

by Alma Fullerton (Author)

Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade

A high-energy novel in verse starring a fifth grader who is almost as devoted to competitive gymnastics as she is to hiding her poor reading skills.

What happens when Claire's secret starts unraveling? Claire is by far the best gymnast on her team, and she's well on her way to qualifying for the state championships. The gym is where Claire shines. But at school, she's known as a troublemaker. She seems to spend more time in the office than in class--which is fine with her since it enables her to hide the fact that she can't read. She has never been able to make sense of the wobbling jumble of letters on a page. No one except her BFF knows. But when a sympathetic principal wonders if Claire is acting out because she's dyslexic, her mother balks. She's afraid Claire will be labeled "stupid" and refuses testing. Claire has always assumed she's dumb; she never imagined her reading problem could have a solution. Is she strong enough to take on both her reading challenges and her mother's denial? Is it worth jeopardizing her spot in qualifiers?

Told in clear and poignant verse and featuring black and white illustrations, Claire's struggle with something that seems to come easily to everyone else will resonate with readers and have them cheering her on.

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Kirkus Reviews

A positive representation of perseverance.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

Fullerton (No More Plastic) authentically and compassionately portrays cued-white fifth grader Claire's experience with dyslexia in this easily digestible verse novel. Claire excels at gymnastics and can pick up a routine faster than anyone in her gym. But at school, her difficulty reading ("Letters/ float, blur/ backward/ forward/ upside down/ all mixed up"), coupled with her classmates' jeers, causes self-doubt. When vice principal Mr. McKay suggests she may have a learning disability, Claire is eager to undergo evaluation; her mother, however, who believes Claire just isn't trying hard enough, refuses to get her tested. With help from her gymnastics teammates, older sister, best friend, and Mr. McKay, Claire is empowered to advocate for herself and what she needs to succeed. Printed in a typeface formatted for those with reading challenges, Fullerton's flowing verse adeptly captures what dyslexia is like for Claire alongside her frustration around convincing her mother that she's trying hard but needs assistance. This insightful story carries a strong message for teachers, caregivers, and children alike, and Mensinga's emotive illustrations provide depth throughout. Ages 8-12. Agent: Deborah Warren, East West Literary Agency. (July)

Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Gr 3-7--Fifth grader Claire is a successful competitive gymnast, but she is unable to find the same success in school. She compensates for her inability to read by getting her best friend Emma Lea to do her homework and by listening to audiobooks to complete book reports. Her embarrassment in class leads to conflict with her teacher, and classmates begin to bully Claire. The vice principal, Mr. McCay, suspects Claire has a learning disability, but Claire's mother refuses to let the school test her. Fortunately, Claire receives support from her older sister, her best friend, and her gymnastics teammates. The book, based on the author's personal experience growing up with dyslexia, offers an authentic portrayal of children with learning disabilities. Readers will empathize with Claire as she struggles with feeling "stupid" and will support her journey. The quick-moving plot comes with a satisfying ending, and the free-verse narrative provides plenty of helpful white space for reluctant readers. Claire appears white, and her friend Emma Lea appears Black in the black-and-white illustrations. VERDICT Recommended for students seeking realistic fiction about characters with learning disabilities similar to Alyson Gerber's Focused, and for those who enjoy reading books written in free verse.--Maile Steimer

Copyright 2022 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

  An excellent choice for both beginning chapter book readers and reluctant readers.—School Library Connection
Alma Fullerton
Alma Fullerton couldn't read until she was in the fourth grade. Today she works with students who have learning disabilities. She is the author of several middle grade and young adult novels that garnered acclaim and awards in her native Canada. Alma is also the author/illustrator of several picture books. She is on faculty with the Highlights Foundation for teaching novel in verse writing and is an RA for SCBWI's Canada East region.

Sarah Mensinga is the author and illustrator of the picture book, The Box, and has worked on films including "The Ant Bully" and "Escape from Planet Earth," as well as the TV show, "The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron." Sarah has also contributed stories to the Flight comic anthologies. Born in Canada, Sarah now lives in Texas with her family. Find more of her work at sarahmensinga.com.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Peachtree Publishers
Publication date
August 02, 2022
BISAC categories
JUV035000 - Juvenile Fiction | School & Education
JUV057000 - Juvenile Fiction | Stories in Verse (see also Poetry)
JUV039150 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Special Needs
JUV032200 - Juvenile Fiction | Sports & Recreation | Gymnastics
JUV077000 - Juvenile Fiction | Neurodiversity
Library of Congress categories

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