Monday, April 13, 2015

Roller Girl

I don't review graphic novels on the blog very often, which is in no way a reflection of their importance in the Painter home. Bit is a huge fan of graphic novels. Baby Mouse was integral in her early chapter book reading years. She owns and reads the Amulet books, anything by Raina Telgemeier, and the Zita the Spacegirl books regularly. She has declared Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson the best graphic novel she's ever read. She insisted I read it. Then she proceeded to plop it in my lap every time I sat down. And constantly asking if I read it yet. My own child was stalking me with a book. So I read it and I wholeheartedly concur. This is a fabulous book.

Astrid's mom takes her and her best friend, Nichole, to a roller derby match one night, and Astrid comes away with stars in her eyes. When she discovers there is an opportunity to go to a derby summer camp, she jumps at it. Astrid assumes Nichole will be there with her, but Nichole has already made plans to go to ballet camp. Worse, Nichole seems to want to spend more time with Astrid's worst enemy talking about make-up and boys. As the summer begins, Astrid's life seems to be spiraling out of control. She has lost her best friend and roller derby doesn't come as naturally as she assumed it would. But Astrid sticks with it, and learns just as much about friendship and teamworks as she does about skating.

Astrid's story is one of discovering passion, persevering when things get hard, learning to atone for mistakes, and friendship. It's also an empowering book. Astrid is brave and hardworking, but she is also selfish and headstrong. She steamrolls Nichole a lot and doesn't realize it. She also mocks the things Nichole is interested, not realizing this is as belittling as when she is mocked by Nichole's ballet friend. I liked the way the book highlighted the different interests of the girls without making one better or worse than the other. Yes, this book has a lot of roller derby in it, but Nichole is as strong and sympathetic a character as Astrid is and her interest in ballet is shown as important and valuable too. The feeling of fear about entering middle school, their changing relationship, and what the future holds are realistically demonstrated in both girls. But this is Astrid's story and it is through her mistakes and bold action, defeats and victories, that Jamieson tells an amazing story of the power of teamwork and forgiveness.

The way Jamieson explains roller derby is brief, through, and folds well in to the rest of the story. The art is vivid and colorful. The whole book is a treasure from start to finish. It's a must have for MG readers.

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