One thing I’ve wanted to do for years is to create a book activity kit/book club guide. There are so many great ones out there, and I thought it would be a fun thing to work on to have, at the very least, for my library kiddos when I introduced book clubs (something we’d talked about revisiting, back in the Before Times). Once we went into quarantine, I thought it would be a good time to put together the scribbled notes I’d cobbled in my copy of Derby Daredevils: Kenzie Kickstarts a Team; I even posted about it when I wrote about the book. Here it is… my first attempt at a book club guide for Derby Daredevils, with some discussion questions, a roller derby coloring sheet, derby lingo and positions, junior derby leagues, and some reading suggestions. I hope you like it! Just click on the Roller Derby Daredevils Kit link right here for the pdf, and please let me know what you think!
I love that roller derby is back and appealing to middle graders. In recent years, we’ve had Dorothy’s Derby Chronicles from Meghan Dougherty, Jessica Abel’s Trish Trash bringing roller derby to Mars, and Victoria Jamieson’s monster hit graphic novel, Roller Girl. For the teens, DC Comics’s Harley Quinn is taking to the rink, and the girls from Slam! had a derby-centric title. As a kid who always wanted to try derby but was (still) too chicken, this is vicariously glorious.
Enter a new middle grade series, The Derby Daredevils. Kenzie and Shelly are BFFs who love roller derby: Kenzie’s mom is even a derby girl, and Kenzie can’t wait to be old enough to try out for a league. She and Shelly have it all figured out: their superstar moves, their secret handshake, their big rink entrance. Luckily for the girls, their local rink is starting up a junior league and are holding tryouts! But unless they have a team to try out together, the two besties risk being split up if they try out separately. Kenzie’s answer: recruit friends from school and make a team! The have one week to recruit and train a whole team, and Kenzie has a hard time reconciling what’s in her head with reality, which threatens to cause some friction: Shelly and shy classmate Tomoko start becoming friendly, which upsets Kenzie. Isn’t she supposed to be Shelly’s best friend? When Shelly invites Kenzie’s secret crush, Bree, to join the team, Kenzie flips out, but inviting the risk-averse Camila and the way-enthusiastic Jules isn’t helping much. Can the girls get it together in enough time to make the tryouts?
This is SO much fun. There’s so much to work with here: a fully realized cast of characters from different cultural backgrounds, each with a distinct personality. Massive “OMG!” moments involving Kenzie and her crush, Bree, that every middle grader will recognize and empathize with. The relatable feeling of wanting something so bad, that you’ll take that square peg and pound it into a round hole to make it work. And black and white illustrations throughout, to really make readers feel like they’re part of the action! Derby Daredevils is a positive LGBTQ+ series, not only giving us a main character who experiences a crush on another girl, but a transgender dad in a loving marriage. I love the way the author explains Kenzie’s understanding of her dad: “Since her dad was transgender, that meant in some of his stories he looked more like a girl, and in other stories, he looked more like a boy. Actually, he was a boy all along, her dad had explained. But before he told people, they thought he was a girl. In his ‘before’ stories, Kenzie’s dad was like an undercover agent, with a secret only he knew.” It’s a straight-forward, commonsense way to explain gender to kids that respects them and respects the adult. I love it.
There’s action, a little tween romance, and a strong bond of friendship in this book, and I can’t wait for the next book to pub later this year. In the meantime, I’ve dogeared (the horror!) and scribbled all over my ARC, in the hopes of writing a discussion guide for it at some point, so if I get that done, I’ll post it. In the meantime, this is a great choice for a book club and way too much fun for budding (and frustrated middle aged wannabee) derby girls.
The Derby Daredevils: Kenzie Kickstarts a Team has starred reviews from School Library Journal and Booklist.
Recommended for ages 10+
About 200 years from now, Trish “Trash” Nupindju lives with her aunt and uncle on a Mars-based moisture farm. Mars is colonized, but settlers live and work under brutal conditions and live in abject poverty. Trish cuts school one day try out for the Novas, a hover derby team – think roller derby, but a little more off the ground – because she wants to become a star and leave this red rock already. She finds herself on the wrong side of hover diva Hanna Barbarian, but she lands a spot as team intern. Life’s starting to look up, until Trish discovers a weak and injured Martian, whom she takes in.
Rollergirl of Mars is the first in a new science fiction trilogy by Harvey Award-winning author Jessica Abel. It’s a promising beginning, but I’ve got a few questions; the biggest one being, does living on Mars age humans differently? Trish is supposed to be 7 1/2 years old, but looks and acts like a teenager. I hope this gets fleshed out in future issues. I love the idea of hover derby (I’ve mentioned being a frustrated derby girl when I’ve reviewed derby books here in the past), and the match in the first issue has energy that readers will enjoy. We’ve got a diva conflict setting up, and some family drama on the horizon, so there are quite a few elements set up here to move future narratives forward. I love the diversity reflected here, too. Give this to your Roller Girl readers who are ready for some more realistic, gritty art and storytelling, and talk this up with your teens. There’s a great Trish Trash section on Jessica Abel’s author page, too.
Recommended for ages 9-14
The Slugs ‘n’ Hisses are back in their second adventure! Last year, we met Dorothy, her roller derby lovin’ grandma, Shotgun Sally, and the misfits that became BFFs and a butt-kickin’ roller derby team in the first Derby Chronicle, Rise of the Undead Redhead. Picking up immediately where Undead Redhead left off, The Woe of Jade Doe goes further into the story behind Eva Disaster’s untimely demise, the conflict between the Pom-Poms and the Slugs ‘n’ Hisses, and the fate of Galactic Skate.
This book is every bit as fun as the Rise of the Undead Redhead. Dorothy is fighting to keep her life together as the girls work through inner conflict and locking horns with their school rivals; the knowledge that her mother could come in and throw everything she’s worked for into chaos at any moment, a crush that keeps her guessing, and an uncertain future for her roller rink and derby team. On top of all that, she’s got a ghost with a grudge, and Grandma’s keeping secrets. It’s a fun page-turner with a touch of girl power and just enough mean girl strife to keep it interesting.
Add this to your collection, along with the first book in the series and Victoria Jamieson’s Roller Girl, and get your girls (and guys!) reading them. Heck, get a copy of Knockdown Knits and knit yourself a nice ice pack cover while you have a book discussion.
Last year, I raved a new middle grade series, Dorothy’s Derby Chronicles, about two sisters living with their very unconventional grandmother and forming a roller derby team. This book was too much fun, and I immediately began asking the authors, via Twitter, for more. Well, the time has come – I present to you, a Sourcebooks Jabberwocky spotlight on Dorothy’s Derby Chronicles: The Woe of Jade Doe. Review to come!
Dorothy’s Derby Chronicles: Woe of Jade Doe
By Meghan Dougherty
Illustrated by Alece Birnbach
August 4, 2015; ISBN 9781492601470
Title: Dorothy’s Derby Chronicles: Woe of Jade Doe
Author: Meghan Dougherty
Release Date: August 4, 2015
Publisher Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
When times get tough, just keep skating…
Ever since Dorothy joined the Slugs & Hisses Derby team, her life has been one adventure after another. Dorothy’s onetime enemy Alex is now a friend, while her friend Jade keeps missing practices. Then the skating rink shuts down, and Dorothy’s life becomes as jumbled as a derby jam. And that’s not to mention the bizarre things happening to anyone who enters the rink (maybe it’s haunted?)…
Can Dorothy restore order to the new life she’s finally settling into, or will her world become a crazy mess she can’t skate away from?
Barnes & Noble- http://ow.ly/OHPz9
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About the Author and Illustrator:
Meghan Dougherty is a full-time PR consultant. In 2007 she joined the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls roller derby league. She lives in Colorado.
Alece Birnbach owned her own advertising agency before creating designs that appear on more than 100 products. She lives in Colorado.
Social Networking Links:
Excerpt from Dorothy’s Derby Chronicles: Woe of Jade Doe
“You okay, Dorth?” Max asked, squeezing Dorothy’s hand.
Dorothy stared into Max’s chocolate-brown eyes. Words weren’t coming. From the tip-top of her curly red hair down to her hand-me-down roller skates, Dorothy was buzzing with delight. She wasn’t even twelve yet, and she had just been kissed! She had thought the night couldn’t get any better after coaching her team, the Slugs ’n’ Hisses, to a win at the Halloween championship bout. But here she was, hand in hand with the boy of her dreams.
Floating on a cloud of bliss, Dorothy was barely aware of the roller rink under her feet or her nearby team chanting, “I’m a roller derby girl. Derby, derby, roller, yeah!”
And there was another sound too, like a squeal—but not a happy squeal. More like a metallic screech, actually. And it was growing louder. Dorothy’s gaze shot upward and her bliss vanished, replaced instead with heart-pounding terror.
Suddenly, everything and everyone in the dimly lit, outdated Galactic Skate was moving in slow motion. The dusty ceiling fans ticked as slowly as the second hand on a clock. The people in the stands lumbered toward the door like molasses on the faded, star-patterned carpet.
“Get off the floor!” Dorothy screamed. “Now!”
Her team stopped chanting and turned to look at her with puzzled faces.
“Frappit,” Dorothy said, dropping Max’s hand. She rocketed toward her team, her arms waving frantically above her head. “Move it!” A second later, time was in hyperdrive.
“You heard your coach!” Grandma Sally yelled. Her tight, fishnet stockings made Grandma’s thighs look like a pair of misshapen waffles. Unaware that her sexy nun costume was riding up dangerously high, she hooked Jade by the arm and pulled her toward the bleachers.
“Ouch, Grandma! Easy,” Jade complained, hopping on one foot. “My ankle, remember?”
The next few seconds were a blur of confusion with the clack and swoosh of skate wheels, the cries of “Run!” from the few remaining fans standing in the bleachers, and above it all, a metallic banshee shriek growing louder each second.
In the chaos, Dorothy realized she had lost track of Sam. Cold fingers of panic wrapped around Dorothy’s throat and squeezed. Her nine-year-old sister had been there just a minute ago, chanting and celebrating with her team. Where was she now? In the frenzy, Dorothy slowed way down, carefully scanning the people running past the rundown refreshment area and blackened popcorn machine and the restrooms with the groovy guy-and-gal signage. No Sam.
Then it happened. With a bang like a gun going off, the chain that held the giant disco ball to the ceiling snapped. Dorothy turned and watched helplessly as the ball fell. Time slowed again. It was like a horror movie version of the Times Square countdown on New Year’s Eve—a glittering ball of death was plummeting toward the floor, and there wasn’t a single thing Dorothy or anyone could do to stop it.
“Sam!” she cried desperately, but all she heard in return were the screams of her terrified teammates and shattering glass.
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I love a good roller derby story, and I love a good graphic novel. I got to enjoy both when I picked up Victoria Jamieson’s Roller Girl. I’d read the advance reviews on this one, and couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. In fact, I ordered it for my library, and was the first person to borrow it. Since then, I’ve pressed it into the hands of two girls at my library, and my niece has her own copy after I raved about it for an entire lunch date.
Check out what I had to say about Roller Girl over at WhatchaReading!
Recommended for ages 10+
Dorothy and her younger sister, Sam, have been sent to live with their grandmother while her mother gets her life sorted out. The only thing is, Grandma isn’t your run-of-the-mill grandmother – she drives a hearse called Dead Betty, and wears distinctly un-grandmotherly clothes. All Dorothy wants to do is fade into the new school year, but Grandma – coupled with Dorothy’s clumsiness – make her a target for the local mean girl group, the Pom-Poms. Dorothy does make some new friends, though – she, Gigi, and Jade become a tight threesome, and somehow find themselves forming a roller derby team! Grandma – who used to be Shotgun Sally in her roller derby days – signs on as coach, and the girls have to recruit more team members before the big bout. And they also need to learn the rules of roller derby. And how to skate. The thing is, the rink they practice at may be haunted, and Dorothy is terrified that her mother – who’s forbidden roller skating – will somehow find out what’s going on. Can the girls pull it together and become a team?
Where was this series when I was a kid, watching late-night roller derby on off-network TV and hitting the roller rinks with my friends when I was in 8th grade? I love the fact that roller derby is starting to see a resurgence in media, and thrilled with this series, which is just too much fun. The author knows and loves her subject – Meghan Dougherty is a derby girl, and manages to give us a fun story about friendship and family, with a wonderfully unconventional and independent group of women, young and old. Alece Birnbach’s illustrations add to the fun, especially when Dougherty lets Birnbach’s pictures narrate the derby action! I really appreciated the nonfictional derby instruction in the book – there are rules and positions, folks! – and will work nicely with Common Core standards, so teachers, get this book on your reading lists for summer.
I can’t wait for the second book in the series, which I’ve already badgered the authors about on Twitter, and I’ll be making sure this book is on my library shelves when it publishes on July 1st. Get in on the action now, and check out the website, where kids can learn more about roller derby and the series’ characters.