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Sunday Skating

By Andrea Rowe & by Hannah Sommerville

Reviewed by Claire Monsour

“When the weekend settles, and Sunday rolls around…”, five friends set off on a Sunday skate. With a click, a clatter, a whoosh, and a whirl, the friends are ready to go! Some, like Bonnie, fly along the boardwalk with ease. Others, like Milla, take it slow and steady, finding their feet and growing their confidence. But not everyone is rolling along; Clancy feels unsure. Clancy feels worried. Clancy is nervous. He’s scared – that he’ll get it wrong, that he’ll fall, that everyone will stare. Even his friends’ calls of encouragement are not enough to help him feel brave. Clancy shuffles along behind the others, board tucked under his arm, watching them do tricks and enjoy themselves. His skateboard feels heavy, and he wishes he could have just tried… luckily, his friends aren’t giving up on him that easily!
Sunday Skating transports us to a small, simple, but poignant world of five friends on an afternoon excursion. Andrea Rowe uses phrases that bring the action to life, embracing alliteration and onomatopoeia. We travel with the children doing “lazy loop-the-loops down laneways”, our bodies remembering the glides around corners and popping over curbs, our ears hearing the clattering of skates on a sidewalk. And nobody can deny the perfect pairing of Hannah Sommerville’s illustrations; the fuzzy edges and pencil lines capture movement throughout the story, from assured whirls to nervous foot jiggles.
This is a story of supportive friendship, facing your fears, and getting back up again. What puts Sunday Skating above other stories with the central theme of “having a go” is that the problem of Clancy’s nerves isn’t solved instantly once he decides to join in; instead he falls, he gets hurt, he gets up, and falls again. This narrative embraces the adage of “starting at the beginning” – it affirms that you won’t be amazing the first time you try something, and that’s okay. Clancy isn’t alone: “everyone stumbles, everyone tumbles”, even the experienced skaters.
I have heard one criticism of Sunday Skating is its similarity to Rowe and Sommerville’s previous award-winning picture book Jetty Jumping (2022 Winner of CBCA Picture Book of the Year – Early Childhood, and 2023 Winner of Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year – Five to Eight Years). They are in fact the first two in a series, following the same five children, with a focus on each one’s fears (in Jetty Jumping Milla is afraid to jump off the end of the jetty; in Sunday Skating Clancy is afraid to skateboard). While the core concepts of the stories are indeed similar – there are the repeated tropes of self-doubt and comparison – there are also subtle differences. Milla and Clancy gain the courage to participate in their own way; this highlights the individualism of each child as well as reinforces the importance of encouragement from friends. Rowe and Sommerville have found a formula that builds classics, much like other beloved Australian series writers. I’m looking forward to the next in the series – meeting these children again, and cheering them on as they face their fears.
Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing 2023
1942 Amsterdam Ave NY (212) 862-3680

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