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“Crash!” This book plunges us into the action with its first word. We follow Toughie Brasuhn and Gerry Murray’s roller derby rivalry as we read about one day’s match. We also get a glimpse of the way sports came to television. Sue Macy’s narrative voice is fast and engaging; her present tense third person narration could almost be a sports announcer’s voice giving us a blow by blow account.

In a picture book, the writer doesn’t have many words to get the reader involved at the story and to build the historical scaffolding. Macy gets around the difficulty of explaining the rules of the game by using an illustration on the first spread that has a crowd clustered around reading a poster titled “Roller Derby Rules, 1948.” With that out of the way, she plunges us into the match, into the rivalry, and into the engaging story.

Macy’s back matter includes period photos, an interesting discussion of how she went about researching the topic. It also includes a cautionary note about what parts of the book are dramatizations rather than strict historical fact.

Check out this great 2 minute trailer, narrated by Sue Macy and loaded with amazing period photos.

Roller Derby Rivals, by Sue Macy, illustrated by Matt Collins. Holiday House: 2014

“There was a time when jolly old England was not so jolly. Children worked in factories. Queen Victoria frowned. Everything was grim. Everything was dark—except…in the make-believe kingdom of Topsy-Turvydom.”

Gilbert and Sullivan’s hilarious operas can just seem strange if you don’t understand the class-bound, rule-conscious Victorian world they came from. In The Fabulous Feud of Gilbert & Sullivan, Jonah Winter depicts that Victorian world and celebrates the unabashed silliness of Gilbert & Sullivan while telling the story of how The Mikado came to be written. Although the focus is on The Mikado, this book is a great introduction to any Gilbert & Sullivan show–our kids loved reading it before we saw HMS Pinafore..

Reading about Gilbert and Sullivan’s fight also might prompt discussion about friendship and the hard feelings that can come between friends.

I miss some of the research features that are becoming more common in non-fiction picture books. The dialogue in the book is apparently invented, but there is no acknowledgment or discussion of that craft choice. I also wished there had been a bibliography so I could see where Winter found the story.

Richard Egielski’s pictures are the perfect accompaniment to Winter’s rollicking text.

The Fabulous Feud of Gilbert and Sullivan by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Richard Egielski. Arthur A. Levine: 2009.