Thursday, April 16, 2015

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson. 240 p. Dial Books for Young Readers/ Penguin Young Readers Group, March, 2015. 9780803740167. (Purchased)

Astrid and Nicole have been bffs since first grade when evil Rachel told Astrid (and everyone else) she had rabies after she touched a dead squirrel. Nicole assured Astrid that she did not. From then on, they did everything together and evil Rachel moved away in third grade.

When Astrid's mom surprises them with an outing to a Roller Derby, Astrid is entranced. Nicole not-so-much. Astrid decides right then and there that she wants to go to Roller camp for the summer undaunted by the fact that she has never even roller skated. Nicole would rather go to ballet camp. Astrid is caught up short because they have always done everything together. Nicole rather gently points out that Astrid always dictates what they will be doing. Astrid blithely assumes that Nicole will come around. Not only does she not, but she'll be attending ballet camp with evil Rachel!

Tween lit is filled with stories about the changing nature of best friendships, especially between girls. I work in a middle school and witness the drama unfold on a daily basis. Do I need yet another book about the implosion of a best friendship? I sure do! My students inhale these books. I was thrilled to add it to my collection, especially one that does so as freshly and exuberantly as Roller Girl does. I knew exactly who I was giving it to first.

I remember watching roller derby when I was a kid back in the stone age of 13 channels on a black and white television. I had not realized that roller derby was still a thing. Apparently it is thriving, as a visit to the author's web page attests. There's a link to a roller derby organization and the author herself skates with the name of Winnie the Pow.

This impressive graphic novel debut (the author has illustrated several picture books) will have wide appeal. Definitely give this to fans of graphic novels, especially fans of Raina Telgemeier and Jimmy Gownley; but fans of friendship books would experience a nice introduction to the graphic novel format with this perfectly paced story. The full-color art is crisp, energetic and attractive. Panels are easy to follow. The characters are fully realized and the dialogue feels authentic. Astrid is spirited and opinionated. While she doesn't always handle her frustration and challenges well, readers will relate and root for her. This reader learned a great deal about the sport and it didn't feel didactic. In fact, I'd like to learn more about the rough and tumble sport. I'm also eager for more middle grade offerings from the talented Ms. Jamieson.

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