The end of the school year is almost upon us, and it’s been fun looking back and seeing how my geekling has grown since Labor Day. One of the ways she’s really bloomed this year is in her reading skills, and she’s a much more fluent and adventurous reader than she was in September.
As a parent, this has made me about as excited as I was for that one moment with that one character on Game of Thrones this past week (not being vague, just keeping it very spoiler free, but props if you can figure out to which I am referring), because due to my love of juvenile fiction graphic novels, we are finally at the point of being able to appreciate and discuss some of the same books.
Fiction can be extra fun if the story involves topics that already excite you. These three books all deal with a geeky hobby of some sort (theater, roller derby, and building things out of cardboard) and were all absolutely loved by both my daughter and myself. They were published with an age range of 9 to 12 in mind, but contained nothing inappropriate (at least in my view) for my 7.5-year-old. There may have been a few things she didn’t understand initially, but I saw those points as good places for us to start discussion.
Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Raina Telgemeier has written and drawn a number of graphic novels (including the wonderful Smile) and has quickly established herself as a reliable favorite for both my tiny bookworm and me. Drama focuses on Callie, a middle school girl who is in love with theater and dreams of becoming a professional set designer. She’s a dedicated member of her school’s stage crew and befriends two brothers while she is posting audition notices for the spring musical. The story covers the production of the musical and all the complications involved, from budget issues to romantic entanglements.
The inclusion of multiple gay and queer-questioning characters has resulted in the book being included on a number of the American Library Association’s “most frequently challenged” lists over the past few years.
I love the book because it reminds me of my own time in middle and high school theater, especially a scene that involves squeezing into a dark and creepy costume vault. My kiddo loved the backstage look at putting on a production.
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
In Roller Girl, Astrid is in fifth grade when her mother takes her and her best friend, Nicole, to a roller derby bout. Astrid immediately falls in love with the sport and starts making plans for Nicole and herself to join the junior roller derby camp over the summer, because best friends do everything together. However, Nicole’s interests are leading her in a different direction.
As the book evolves, Astrid makes new friends, learns how to skate in roller derby and how to face challenges, and, most importantly, starts detangling how to navigate that point in life when you and the people you care about are being led in different directions by your passions.
My tiny bookworm was excited by the novel’s exciting depiction of the roller derby bouts, and liked seeing how Astrid’s hard work was shown to pay off. I liked the depiction of Astrid’s journey toward finding her new fierce self, and I have a feeling that the two of us will be revisiting this book again as my kiddo gets older.
Victoria Jamieson is a former skater with the Rose City Rollers and has also written and illustrated a graphic novel about life in a Renaissance Festival cast family in All’s Faire in Middle School (it should be noted that while I also love this book, it has one part that might not be as appropriate for young kids).
The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell
The Cardboard Kingdom details the adventures of 16 kids who spend a summer turning their neighborhood into a fantasy superhero wonderland by using their imaginations and a bunch of cardboard. Their stories are told through a series of vignettes that focus on the adventures of one or more of the kids, with many core cast members appearing in multiple stories. The book was created through collaboration with a number of other authors, each helping to shape one or more characters and their stories, which makes perfect sense given the format in which children tend to play.
In this created kingdom, the group of kids finds cardboard to be the perfect medium for both imagination and self-exploration. Sophie finds her power through becoming Big Banshee. Jack explores who he wants to be by becoming the evil and powerful Sorceress. Some of the stories are a little heavy, though. In one, a young boy uses his alter ego to help work through his reactions to his parents’ separation.
My kiddo especially loved the last story in the book, in which all the kids come together in an exciting and creative grand battle, because it looked like “lots of fun.” I loved the bright and colorful illustrations and the way the book really embraced the possibilities of the graphic novel format.
What books have you found allow you and your geekling to really geek out together?