Educator's Guide

The giant hits and fast action on the 8-wheels of roller derby inspires an individualistic—and a little anti-establishment—attitude. Dorothy’s Derby Chronicles’ Rise of the Undead Redhead teaches kids to follow their dreams and embrace who they are, no matter what their body types. 

 We’d love to roll (literally!) into your classroom to talk to your 3rd through 6th graders about the process of creating this book, and this Educator’s Guide offers ideas for a teaching curriculum. Roller derby is an exciting and fast-action way to get kids interested in reading and writing, and they love our big, rolling entrance!

 Email us at or call us at (720) 560-0177 to set up a class visit.



Educator's Guide

Dorothy's Derby Chronicles: Rise of the Undead Redhead

A Common Core State Standards - Aligned Activity Guide for Grades 4-7


About The Book

Dorothy's Derby Chronicles: Rise of the Undead Redhead will be in stores by July 8, 2014. It is also available for pre-purchase and purchase online at

A redheaded ball of enthusiastic contradictions, middle schooler Dorothy Moore is lucky to make it through a day without planting a foot in her mouth or into a hole. When their mother leaves to chase stardom in Nashville, Dorothy and her sister, Sam, find themselves living with Grandma Sally... in a funeral home. Dealing with her crazy, hearse-driving grandmother is one thing, but Dorothy has to start a whole new life at J. Elway Middle School where she’s classified an outsider on her very first day. When G-ma gives Dorothy her retro roller derby skates, she discovers a new attitude and takes a merry, mismatched band of anti-divas into the exhilarating world of roller derby with her sister, Sam, by her side. Dorothy and her new pack – Gigi, Jade, Dinah, Dee, Ruth, Lizzy, Juana – find they’ve somehow smack-talked their way onto the junior roller derby competition schedule when they barely have a clue about the sport. With G-ma as coach, new nicknames like Geekzilla, Rolling Thunder, and Dee Tension at the ready, this crew of girls is ready to hit the track and win the game!


About the Creators

Creators Alece Birnbach and Meghan Dougherty

Creators Alece Birnbach and Meghan Dougherty

Author Meghan Dougherty is a roller derby-playing wife and mom and owner of a small PR agency. Since 2007, Meghan has been entertained and inspired by her roller derby sisters who are some of the smartest, most independent and funniest women she knows.

Illustrator Alece Birnbach has been drawing girls her whole life. From her fine art to her commercial illustrations found on products across the country, Alece has been inspired by the diversity and complexity of the feminine form and spirit. Friends for more than 20 years, Meghan and Alece share a free spirit and entrepreneurial quest for adventure. Together they hatched a genius plan to combine Alece’s gift of capturing the essence of sassy girl power with Meghan’s roller derby story and adventures, to create a book series for girls. All to give tween girls a taste of the fun, fierceness, friendship, empowerment, and positive body image that the sport of roller derby brings to women from 6 to 60.


Pre-Reading Questions and Activities

How is it Going to Roll Out?

Ask the students to study the cover illustration and read the title and front and back cover. Discuss the first impressions of the book. Will it be funny? Is it just for girls or boys? From just what’s on the front and back cover, what do they think is going to make this book fun to read? Ask the students to make some predictions about how the book will roll out.


Roller Derby History

What do the students know about roller derby? Have they seen any games? Did any of them watch the movie, WhipIt? What do they think the sport is about? Do they know both boys and girls play roller derby? Go online and view some bout video and learn some roller
derby history with the students.


Discussion and Comprehension Questions and Activities


Vocabulary and Comprehension Round Up

Give students a sheet of paper with a roller derby flat track drawn on it (an oval inside an oval, like an oval-shaped track and field track). Ask students to make note of interesting words as they read the book. If they know the meaning of the word, ask them to write it near the inside track line. Words they might understand mostly from context goes in the middle of the track and words they don’t know the meaning of are written along the outside of the track. Encourage them to add important ideas and key words that help them make predictions about the theme. Utilize informal one-on-one discussions in pairs, formal small group discussions or as an informal class discussion to discuss vocabulary questions and comprehension of the text. Some recommended ideas and key words from Rise of the Undead Redhead could include embarrassment, isolation, living life to the fullest, crushes, bullying, being seen as yourself, kindred spirit, public image, controversy, scandalous, impatient, renegade, daring to name just a few.


Dorothy’s Perspective

The book is told from Dorothy Moore’s perspective, but from a third person narrator point of view. Discuss with the class the concept of the narrative voices – first person, third person, etc., and discuss how this perspective enhances the story or gives readers more insight to what the main character is thinking. Would it have been more enhanced to come from the first person perspective or some other voice? How would it have sounded if Grandma Sally was the narrator? What might you learn about Dorothy or the story if Grandma was telling the story? Consider having students rewrite a page or two in another perspective voice.


The Winning Point

Ask students to either write a review of their favorite part or illustrate their favorite scene. Or both! They can choose to be the author or illustrator and write up a one-page essay explaining their choice, reasons for choosing, and/or discuss the sections of text they thought were effective or so visual it inspired them to draw it out. Have the student read their essay or show and explain their illustration to the class.


Comic it Up

Like some of the action scenes in the book, ask students to create a comic strip or graphic novel style page to illustrate and communicate a different scene from the book that does not have an illustration. Have the students present their work and discuss how this style may help make the book more fun, meaningful, or maybe it ends up more confusing. Ask them to explain why they thought that scene would be effective in a graphic novel style.


Character Development

As a character development and illustration exercise ask students to create a new character for the book. How would the character help move the story along or aid the main character in reaching his or her transition? Ask them to write a one-page character description and the back story for that person.

What is the character’s unique personality and look, i.e. ethnicity, hairstyle, clothing, body language, facial expressions, quirks, passions, etc. Ask them to write a scene that could be added to the book.


Turning-Point Talk

Ask the students to identify when a turning point happens in Rise of the Undead Redhead. How does that turning point advance the plot? Is it the only turning point in the book? Turning points are the actions of a character that changes the direction of his or her life or others’ lives. Ask students how a turning point may have affected their own lives.


Reader’s Theater

In small or large groups, ask the students to select two to three pivotal scenes or scenes that illustrate important parts of the plot – themes, conflicts, ideas – that they’d like to read aloud and dramatize. Some passages from Rise of the Undead Redhead could include what it means to be “family,” and that family can be friends you choose to bring close to you, standing up for yourself, being a leader or following your dreams could be some themes. Give them time to choreograph scenes and learn key passages and then present them to the class in order. Ask students to consider different voices and character traits or physicality in demonstrating the scenes. Discuss how these scenes string together to move the plot along and how the characters respond and change or transform because of these scenes.

All images and text © 2013-2016 Alece Birnbach and Meghan Dougherty. All Rights Reserved. 

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