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Saturday, February 20, 2016

Roller Girl, written and illustrated by Victoria Jamieson. Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin. 2015. $14.99 ages 9 and up


I just want to tell you, you don't have to worry. I won't say Hi to you at school. I'll never say another word to you again!

I didn't want to hurt your feelings.

Who wants to hang out with you anyway? You're boring! And shallow!"

Graphic novels have changed enormously in past years, and I am indebted to those authors and illustrators who have created such brilliant works that I can now actually call myself a fan! I seek out titles that have come to my attention through review journals, or blog posts. I am rarely disappointed in the stories being told, and the characters portrayed.

That being said, I hope it won't be long until you meet Astrid. She and her friend Nicole are best buds, and always together. The summer between sixth and seventh grade is often a watershed year for those girls who have always looked to the other for support and friendship. It is a time when growing up can be very difficult to face alone. When Astrid signs up to go to roller derby camp, she takes it for granted that Nicole will be right by her side. If you are reading and watching carefully, you will know that Nicole is not nearly so keen to try this new sport. She prefers to attend ballet camp, leaving Astrid on her own in this new venture.

No matter ... Astrid is sure that roller derby is just the ticket for her awesome talents. She has few qualms about the skills she brings to it. It doesn't take long for her to realize that she is out of her league. The learning curve is enormous. Every day is a new lesson in taking the bumps and bruises that come when your skating skill is lacking and you hit the floor more often than not, in being hit while practicing how to avoid those hits by other team members, and the exhaustion that comes from being constantly on the move.

Fans of roller derby and those who don't yet know they are fans will find much to love about Astrid's story. The joys of the derby itself are presented in the way the sport is coached and its participants mentored, in the names that are chosen or given to each of the players, in the players themselves and
the mechanics of a match. Along the way, Astrid meets a new friend, Zoey, and makes some interesting discoveries about herself, friendship, and the roller derby. It takes hard work and stamina to learn a new skill, and this graphic novel demonstrates that clearly and with heart.

Honest and realistic, it encourages readers to consider the ups and downs of friendship. They are sure to react to the emotions shared, and the changes that come with growing older and realizing that there can be cheerful compromise and support when it is least expected. This is one terrific graphic novel and I don't want you to miss it!

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