A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Victoria Jamieson's 2016 Newbery Honor book, Roller Girl, is a graphic novel about how things change for Astrid during the summer between fifth and sixth grades. Against the backdrop of a roller-derby day camp, the book explores themes of friendship, working hard for something you really want, being a team player, and being ready for how much more complicated life becomes as you grow up. Violence is all on the rink, with elbow and hip checks shown. Sportsmanship, fair play, and being a contributing part of a team are all emphasized. Boy-girl dynamics are briefly touched on when Astrid wonders if a boy and girl she sees are on a date and whether they'll kiss. Astrid's a great model for sticking with something when it's hard and for learning how to be a better friend. All adults are great role models. There's some name-calling; the strongest language is a few mentions of Astrid's nickname at school, "Ass-turd."
What's the story?
In the summer between fifth and sixth grades, Astrid's mother takes her and her best friend, Nicole, to see a roller-derby bout. Astrid is immediately fascinated by the strong, powerful athletes and their amazing moves on skates. When she discovers that the league offers a day camp for girls her age, Astrid immediately knows she wants to spend the summer as a ROLLER GIRL. But Nicole doesn't quite get it. Lately she's been more interested in boys, clothes, and her new snobby friend from ballet, Rachel. As Astrid deals with the pressure of training for her first bout in front of an audience, she and Nicole seem to be drifting in opposite directions. Is it time for them to go their separate ways, or can this lifelong friendship be saved?
Is it any good?
This colorful, engaging, and lively debut graphic novel has girl power galore. Big kids and tweens will easily relate to Astrid as she learns how to navigate a world where everything -- especially feelings and friendships -- is getting so much more complicated. And they'll really root for Astrid as she struggles to get good enough to be the team's jammer at the big bout. Astrid really is worth admiring as she powers through the bumps and bruises and picks herself up after each of the (seemingly millions) of times she falls down.
Author Victoria Jamieson's background in design and illustration serves her well in creating a vivid, entertaining, but realistic world. The engaging characters are well realized in pictures and with words, and the illustrations effectively enhance the text by adding nuance and telling detail to the story. Big kids and tweens will find a lot to admire here.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why graphic novels are so popular. What do we like so much about putting words and pictures together to tell a story?
Astrid talks about how feelings are getting complicated now that she notices she's feeling more than one emotion at a time, and sometimes even opposite emotions at the same time, such as when she said she felt "shad." Which feelings have you had at the same time? How were you able to cope with them?
Did you know about roller derby before you read this book? What do you think of it now? Look in your library or online for more books about the sport, or any other that interests you, to find out more about it.
- Author: Victoria Jamieson
- Genre: Sports
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: March 10, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 12
- Number of pages: 240
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: Newbery Medal and Honors
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