Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, 240 pp, RL 4

Roller Girl is the absolutely magnificent debut graphic novel by picture book author and illustrator Victoria Jamieson. Jamieson has an inviting, crisp illustration style and a gift for storytelling that rivals the master, Raina Telgemeier. With Roller Girl, Jamieson introduces readers to Astrid, a 12 year-old who discovers her passion the same summer she discovers the complexities and challenges of being a true friend. Jamieson balances and blends these two strong themes and it's exciting to watch Astrid navigate them both. If you are interested in roller derby then you will definitely love Roller Girl. If aren't interested in roller derby or know nothing about it, you will love Roller Girl too! Astrid's story is universal and Jamieson's skills with words and pictures make this memorable book hard to put down.

A single parent, Astrid's mom is known for her ECE's - evenings of cultural enlightenment. This means everything from poetry readings, modern art and the opera for Astrid and her BFF since forever, Nicole. When she takes the girls to a match between the Rose City Rollers and the Oregon City Rollergirls Astrid is enthralled - and ready to roll. Fortunately, her mother agrees to send her to Junior Roller Derby summer camp - as long as Nicole goes also and her mom can drive the girls home. Hurdles arise almost immediately when Nicole tells Astrid that she is going to ballet camp instead AND Astrid's nemesis, mean girl Rachel, will be there, too. Astrid finds herself lying to her mom and making the long, hot, slightly dangerous trek home from camp in her own.

At camp, Astrid faces more challenges. She has a lot to learn. But, her coach, Heidi Go Seek (the names and costumes of the roller derby players are such a fun part of this book!!) is perceptive and a great teacher. She finds ways to help Astrid learn at camp and away from camp. Astrid also gets some special help from her idol, Rose City Roller, Rainbow Bite, when she starts leaving notes in her locker. She also finds a friend at camp who helps her perfect her look (blue hair and cut-up t-shirts), Zoey. But, being a friend to Zoey, who seems to share all of her interest, proves almost as challenging as being a friend to Nicole, who seems to be changing. With the prospect of a chance to skate in an exhibition match during half time at an official Rose City Roller game, Astrid takes the advice of Rainbow Bite who tells her, "I've found if you want something badly enough, you just have to work harder than everyone else to get it."

Watching Astid face challenges on the track and off is fantastic. Roller Girl is rich with details and experiences, the illustrations adding to the emotional impact, excitement and humor of the story. Jamieson gives readers great lessons on how to be a better roller derby player and how to be a better friend. Jamieson's next book is about classroom pets running wild (see below) but I hope she has another amazing graphic novel like Roller Girl brewing inside of her!

Jamieson - skating as Winnie the Pow - with the Rose City Rollers!

Coming in 2016 from Victoria Jamieson!

Source: Review Copy

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