According to protagonist Dorothy’s hearse-driving, derby-skating granny, “Normal is overrated!”
Author Meghan Dougherty delivers that powerful message – along with lessons in self-confidence and individuality – to young women via her tween series Dorothy’s Derby Chronicles. And to mark the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls rolling strong for ten years, teammate Dougherty – she goes by Undertaker’s Daughter on the rink – has rolled out her second book, Woe of Jane Doe, with co-writer Karen Windness and Denver-based illustrator and co-creator Alece Birnbach.
Dougherty, Windness and Birnbach will celebrate the book's release at a special Denver signing at 2 p.m. Saturday, October 3, at the Tattered Cover Colfax; another signing is scheduled for Saturday, October 17 at Old Firehouse Books, 232 Walnut Street, in Fort Collins.
The first book in the three-part series was Rise of the Undead Redhead, which follows protagonist Dorothy Moore as she and her pals learn about self-love and teamwork while rolling through the adventures of a ghostly mystery and, of course, roller derby.
Woe of Jade Doe carries the story forward, as Dorothy —aka the Undead Red— wonders what’s up when teammate Jade keeps missing practices. Add to that a financial crisis at Galactic Skate and some bizarre things happening at the rink and, well, life gets crazy for the young protagonist.
Woe of Jade Doe includes 101 illustrations, and some pages boast comic-book style spreads. “Portions of the story are even told through pictures,” explains Birnbach, calling the book a “graphic-novel-chapter-book hybrid” that caters to the visual inclinations of most middle-grade readers.
In both of Dougherty’s funny, action-packed books, the female characters take “what could be considered their negative assets – things people tease them about – and make them empowering,” Dougherty says. The girl who is bigger than the other girls, for example, is given the nickname Thunder Thighs by her peers. “She takes that and makes it into her derby name: Rolling Thunder,” Dougherty explains. Other skaters in the series knock down mean-girl bullying with monikers like Geekzillla, Dee Tension and Booty Vicious.
“At a time when kids begin to see changes in their bodies, friendships and often confidence, this series uses the lessons of roller derby and teamship to teach confidence and the value of being yourself,” adds Dougherty. “You don’t have to play roller derby to have a roller-derby spirit.
"I don’t mind the little princess books," she adds, "but this is sort of a hodgepodge of all types of girls, and roller derby is like that, too.” Readers of Rise of the Undead Redhead recognized that: “Kids think it’s refreshing, and they love the characters — especially Dorothy’s granny.”
Since launching the series, Dougherty has done several school visits, and always comes to the classroom in her skates and derby gear. “It’s a fun background way to talk about writing, illustrating and the creative process,” she says, noting that boys have enjoyed the series just as much as the girls do. For non-local schools, Dougherty has done Skype calls.
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The third book in the series won’t debut until next year; but here's a tease: “This one surrounds a bank robbery and the mob, and continues on the whole theme of authenticity and independence,” says Dougherty.
Woe of Jane Doe is available nationally through Barnes & Noble retailers, as well as the Tattered Cover locations and other local, indie stores. For more information, visit the Dorothy’s Derby Chronicles website.