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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

Printzbery Part 2, This Time on Wheels

Roller Girl coverYesterday we gave you a twofold twofer: two titles with potential for both Printz and Newbery.

Today we’re back with another, Roller Girl, in what looks like it might be a weeklong series.

Let’s get to it!

Roller Girl, Victoria Jamieson
Dial Books, March 2015
Reviewed from ARC

This one is technically a potential Printzecott or Caldeprintz, not a Printzbery. Because it’s 100% dependent on the illustration, which makes it a nonstarter for the Newbery — too bad, because this is indeed an excellent and distinguished text for children — 5 stars, lots of love from gatekeepers and child readers alike, and it’s about roller derby! Bonus: the narrator/main character is half-Puerto Rican, which just furthers the every-child aspects — we all come from somewhere, and Astrid’s “yes this is me, but actually what’s me is my NOW” is so spot on, while the fact that her grandparents are Puerto Rican makes her more statistically plausible than a lily white, European-Caucasian heroine could ever be.) It’s a perfect Newbery pick, other than that pesky legibility issue.

(Although coincidentally Jonathan just posted about it on Heavy Medal, with the argument that the text here stands on its own — and it does, in the passage he cited, but it does not do so throughout. There is a really significant moment at the end of the book, when Astrid leaves behind the flowers from Nicole. This is IT, the heart of the meaning of the book: growing apart from friends can be hard, it can be scary, but once the pain is done and you come out the other side, you don’t even notice it, because you are somewhere else, emotionally. The flowers left on the bench when Astrid goes off to dinner send readers a very clear message that Astrid has moved on; without the visuals the reader wouldn’t have any idea about how far Astrid had moved from her pain only 100 pages earlier, and this would be a much diminished book. Clearly, this is not the only example of the visual narrative being necessary for comprehension, but it’s a very strong one.)

So having established that the art matters, is it good, or just critical for conveying meaning?

It’s good.Roller Girl page spread The art is expressive; the colors are bright, facial expressions well delineated, action clear — all hallmarks we’ve come to expect in the well-written, well-drawn middle grade or YA non-superhero graphic novel  (see also: Smile, American Born Chinese, El Deafo). The interplay between text and image is often masterful; some scenes are carried by picture only (the spread when Astrid’s mother confronts Astrid about lying), some primarily by text (the opening Jonathan cited, or any of the slightly expository derby explanations), and some, like the spread of classmates when Astrid considers how everyone else has a “thing” (see low quality scan to the right) excel in the marriage between text and image.

Having established all the good things (and incidentally all the Caldecott things), is this excellent for YA audiences? It’s young — Astrid is 12, but it’s also set the summer before 6th grade, and I wonder why, because aging her up one grade would have made this far more likely as a YA crossover without changing anything else about the book (indeed, the almost dating stuff with Nicole and Adam seemed a bit precocious). But the themes are not so young: changing friendships and what it means when growing up is also growing apart is a question that starts in lower school and continues through adulthood, and isn’t specific to only middle grade books or people.

In sum, this is a lovely meditation and a beautiful story of growth and change, situated in that moment at the cusp of adolescence and told without nostalgia. It’s a perfect upper middle grade book. If it could win the Newbery, I’d be all over that. It may even be perfect for 7th graders, but that’s just barely Printz territory, and when there are so many excellent books that speak to a larger portion of the Printz audience, I have a hard time rooting for this one.


About Karyn Silverman

Karyn Silverman is the High School Librarian and Educational Technology Department Chair at LREI, Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School (say that ten times fast!). Karyn has served on YALSA’s Quick Picks and Best Books committees and was a member of the 2009 Printz committee. She has reviewed for Kirkus and School Library Journal. She has a lot of opinions about almost everything, as long as all the things are books. Said opinions do not reflect the attitudes or opinions of SLJ, LREI, YALSA or any other institutions with which she is affiliated. Find her on Twitter @InfoWitch or e-mail her at karynsilverman at gmail dot com.


  1. Anne Bennett says

    We left Roller Girl off our Mock Printz list for all the reasons you cited. There are so many Printz-worthy books this year why include a book which barely qualifies? Plus if you know most high schoolers, they wouldn’t be caught dead reading something about a kid in elementary or middle school. That said however, I was completely charmed by the book. The message more than the illustrations won me over. I wish I’d had a book like it when I was transitioning between friends in junior high years. I think it would have helped me have some perspective.

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