I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this gem. I had to call down to our local book shop and ask them to set aside a copy for me, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it in before closing. And, of course, as soon as I got my hands on it, I gobbled it right up! What a delight! This book might be cute and pretty, but the message packs a punch!
What makes this book even cooler is that it’s inspired by the author’s love of roller derby! When she moved to Portland, Oregon, one of the first things she did was to try out for the derby there-The Rose City Rollers! You should definitely check out the free e-book which talks in detail about the making of “Roller Girl”!
Astrid has suffered through one too many Evenings of Cultural Enlightenment with her mom. Poetry, opera, and art, oh my! But at least she gets to bring her friend, Nicole. Tonight’s ECE is a refreshing change of pace. Astrid’s mom has planned a night at the roller derby! Astrid watches in amazement as the cleverly named derby girls push and shove their way around the track. The highlight of the evening is when she gets winked at by Rainbow Bite, the star of the show!
Astrid is completely taken by the thrill of the derby, and begs her mom to let her go to derby summer camp. She can’t wait to become a roller girl, but Nicole isn’t so sure. She’s more interested in going to ballet camp for the summer. When Nicole becomes friends with Rachel, Astrid’s enemy, they have a falling out and Astrid has to go to derby camp solo. It’s hard to try new things alone, but Astrid wants so badly to be a roller girl that she won’t let anything stop her.
Though she hopes to be a jammer in the end of summer bout, Astrid stinks at everything. At first, she can’t even keep vertical on her skates. Not only does she skate home from practice, she also stays after regular practice to work on her skating skills. All summer, she works on cross overs, blocking, and plow stops.Her new friend, Zoey, encourages her and even sticks around to work with Astrid after practice. Zoey moves in to fill the best-friend position formerly held by Nicole.
Being a teenager is hard, and Astrid is trying to figure out who she is and what’s important. She’s trying to be a good friend to Zoey while hiding the hurt from being ditched by Nicole. She’s been regularly lying to her mom, who isn’t impressed by Astrid’s new blue hair. But everything will be alright if she can just be the jammer in the end of summer bout.
Finally, Astrid gets to find out if her hard work has paid off. The girls are gathered together and the bout positions are announced. Astrid is shocked to find out that the team’s jammer is…Zoey! As much as she wants to, Astrid has a hard time being excited for her friend. She’s consumed with feelings of her own disappointment. This attitude only creates a rift between her and Zoey, who seem to no longer be friends.
Not only does Astrid fail at getting the jammer position, but she’s also left with no friends. What’s a girl to do? With a little help from her idol, Rainbow Bite, Astrid comes up with a plan. But will it be good enough to win back both friends and ease the tensions between her and her mom? Will she make it through the bout without humiliating herself and her team?
One of the many things I love about this graphic novel is that Astrid feels like a real twelve year old. She doesn’t take to skating right away, and in fact, she’s pretty awful right up until the end! But Astrid takes it all in stride, and she never gives up. I also love that Astrid pursued her ambitions even though her best friend wanted to do something else. So often we see girls in packs, giving up their own dreams to stay within the safety of the group.
This will be a title that, like “El Deafo”, circulates quickly through the classroom. I can picture kids packed tightly in a circle, with “Roller Girl” in the middle. And, yes, even boys will be anxious to get their hands on a copy!
Title: “Roller Girl”
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: March 10, 2015
You might also enjoy: “Sisters” by Raina Telgemeier
My recommended age range: 4th-6th