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Monday, December 7, 2015

Excellent Graphic Novel About a Fifth Grade Girl Who Loves Roller Derby!

Jamieson, Victoria (2015) Roller Girl.  New York:  Penguin.

Opening Lines:
Girl 1:  "Ugh, there's only Astrid here.  I told you only babies hand out at the park."
Astrid, lacing up her skates, shoots them an angry look.
Girl 1:  Come on, Let's go to the mall.  I don't know why you wanted to come here anyway."
Astrid clicks on her skate helmet.
Suddenly Astrid is larger than life and skating toward them at the mall.
Astrid:   "Better call mall security, you jerks!"
The two girls run screaming.
Girl 1:  "Aaaaaaaagh!"
Girl 2: "OMG, I chipped a nail!"
Next page, daydream vanishes,   Astrid is skating by herself on a sidewalk.  Astrid:  "Sigh."

I would have reviewed this book months ago, but it has been impossible to get it away from my sixth grade daughter long enough for me to read it.  This is a remarkably good graphic novel -- and one that will especially grab the sorts of readers who loved Raina Telgemeier's Smile and Drama and Sisters.  Jamieson weaves a wonderful tale about Astrid's growing interest in roller derby, participation in a Saturday skating camp, and eventual growth and mastery of the sport.  Along the way she gains and loses friends, struggles with the skills not coming to her as smoothly as she things they should, deals with being jealous of her friend's success, and grows with the support of an older mentor.  This graphic novel has a beautiful balance of action and relationships and is sure to be a hit with fourth grade girls on up (and maybe some boys as well).

The art reminds me a lot of Raina Telgemaier's style. The characters are just the right combination of realistic and cartoony.  The inviting and colorful style adds to the excitement of the story.

In the story, When Astrid has an argument with her friend Nicole and Nicole chooses not to go with her to Roller Derby Camp, Astrid doesn't tell her mother that Nicole's family will not be driving Astrid home.  As a result, Astrid has to walk the couple of miles home.  It is a great lesson in perseverance, but also in the value of communicating with your parents.  Some parents may have issues with this deception. There are good themes in the book as well though.  Astrid seeks help from adults when she needs it, learns to stand up for herself, learns the value of sticking with something she cares about, and learns a lot about friendship.  Once or twice in the book there is a vulgar reference (one of her rivals calls Astrid "Ass-turd" at one point) which might argue against including it in your classroom library.  All in all, though, it seems to me to be an excellent book for upper elementary and middle school students.

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