When I was a kid, I fell somewhere between tomboy and Barbie, but rarely hit either of the extremes. I loved watching weekend wrestling and football and playing street games, but dolls? Not for me. When it came to comic books, though, I usually grabbed Archie over Superman, but regardless of which, I loved them.
Fast forward to the popularity of graphic novels. In theory, given past history, you’d think I would have embraced it; I would have read hundreds of them by now. For some reason I’d never picked one up. Until last week.
What made me do that? What made me pick up a graphic novel with, of all things, roller derby at its center, especially when I’ve rarely given the sport a passing thought?
It wasn’t so much all the starred reviews, and of course, you know it wasn’t the format nor the subject matter. It was, and is the author/illustrator. Victoria Jamieson was the talent behind the interior art for all three Gollywhopper Games books. There was no question I’d pick upRollergirl, but (sorry, Vicki) I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did.
Although the cover depicts the main character, Astrid in roller derby gear, this book is not about the sport. This book resonated as one of the best I’ve ever read about friendships, and especially about the way they change when you get to be twelve years old. Astrid and Nicole have been best friends for nearly forever. And although Nicole can see their interests moving them in different directions, Astrid doesn’t. That’s until Nicole finally tells her she won’t be at roller derby camp with Astrid; she’ll be at dance camp with the girl who once made Astrid’s life miserable and who has certainly made her life miserable again.
Rollergirl is funny and touching and empowering, and I’d give it to any kid, boy or girl, sporty or not. In fact, I’m giving it one of my highest honors. When I visit schools, students often ask me about great books I’ve read. To make it easier, I’ve compiled my all-time favorites on two slides. And here I go, changing one of those slides to include Rollergirl.