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9780803740167_p0_v2_s118x184ROLLER GIRL is not a flashy book in Newbery terms, and that is part of its charm. Stripped down just to its bare text, sentence by sentence, it wouldn’t wow me.  But ROLLER GIRL is a great example of a story presented in exactly the right format.   From the pre-title/title page/post-title page drama in which the only sound our protagonist actually emits is “*SIGH*”,  to the emotional tension and rhythm on p. 46 by dropping a single sentence back and forth down the course of four identical panels, to the triple-narrative panels as the one on the bottom for page 43, in which we have the protagonists past-tense narrative, present tense dialogue, and sub-conscious thought bubble, simultaneously….Jamieson lays out her narrative to get the most humor and the most emotional impact out of each spread.

I’ve started thinking of this story as “GOODBYE STRANGER” meets “THE THING ABOUT LUCK”.  It is another story about how girls treat each other at that terrible age … though this one just a tad younger (and easier for me to bear) than Stead’s.  Astrid’s relentless capacity to be a little too self-focussed is portrayed with so much humor…humor heightened by the fact that she’s telling her story back to us, and she is a ham.   As with the combine-detail-fixation in THE THING ABOUT LUCK, Jamieson delivers enough details about Roller Derby rules and strategy for the reader to become fully invested in Astrid’s obsession.

If I had to guess which book would make me cry this year, I would never have guessed.  But the wordless last panels on page 217 here did it to me; Astrid’s accomplishment so transformative and so mundane at the same time that I believed it fully.   There’s no text in that transaction to point to, but it would never have worked without the entire support of story, delivered both in text, picture, and panel, that came before.


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