Welcome to SPORTY GIRL BOOKS. At SPORTY GIRL, we want to give all girls the chance to love, watch, play, read, and write about any sport that interests them. We look forward to the day when the words, "You play like a girl," is the biggest compliment anyone can receive.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Sporty Girl Basketball Books for March Madness

March Madness is almost upon us. Here are some of our favorite sporty girl basketball books.

Picture Books

Basketball Belles by Sue Macy 
This dynamic picture book about the birth of women's basketball will keep young readers riveted. Raised on a cattle ranch, Agnes Morley was sent to Stanford University to learn to be a lady. Yet in no time she exchanged her breeches and spurs for bloomers and a basketball; and in April 1896 she made history. In a heart--pounding game against the University of California at Berkeley, Agnes led her team to victory in the first-ever intercollegiate women s basketball game, earning national attention and putting women s basketball on the map. 

Middle Grade 

Kyle Jean, Hoop Queen by Marci Peschke
Kylie Jean is usually good at everything she tries. So how come learning to play basketball is so hard?

Game Time, Mallory! by Laurie Friedman and Jennifer Kalis
Mallory can't wait to play in her town's new girls' basketball league! What could be more fun than trying something new and being on a team? But Mallory's basketball career gets off to a rocky start. None of her friends are on her team. And no matter how much she tries, she can't make a basket. 

Rebound Time by Jake Maddox
After her parents' divorce, Sarit's dad moved across the country for his new job. Sarit feels lost without him there. To make things worse, her dad was also her basketball coach. Now that he's gone, Sarit doesn't even want to play basketball anymore. Can Sarit learn to love the game without her dad on the sidelines?

The Big Break, A Julie Classic by Megan McDonald
It's 1974, and Julie Albright has just moved to a new neighborhood and started at a new school. So when she finds out the basketball team is "boys only," Julie is determined to fight for her right to play. Will a petition with 150 names be enough to make the coach change his mind and give her a chance?

Young Adult

Head Games by Nicole Leigh Shepherd
Taylor is calm, cool, collected, and ferocious on the basketball court. A total all-star. Not so much in real life. She may be tall, gorgeous, and an incredible catch, but just try telling her that!

And lately, Taylor doesn't know which way to turn: The summer showcase game is almost here. Her BFF Hannah roped her into a fashion show (eek!). And she can't decide between Zach-the super-popular, super-tall, super-off-limits basketball dynamo-and Matt-the sweet boy from her math class (who may just be dating her BFF's older sister). It's enough to make any girl's head spin!

Boost by Kathy Mackel
Thirteen-year-old Savvy's three-point shot is deadly. But she gets pushed around on the basketball court. Her older sister, Callie, is on varsity cheerleading, but she's not light enough to be a flier - her coveted position. Both girls need to boost their level of competition to get into the action. How far are they willing to go to be the best?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Publishing Industry Interview with Literary Agent Alexandra Penfold

Today, Sporty Girl Books Blog extends a warm welcome to Alexandra Penfold of Upstart Crow Literary Agency. Alexandra has been in publishing for over a decade. Her undergraduate degree was an interdisciplinary major in Entertainment Business and Marketing. From there she went on to be a book publicist, and an Editor at Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster. She is the co-author of New York a la Cart: Recipes and Stories from the Big Apple's Best Food Trucks and Publisher’s Weekly just announced the sale of her picture book FOOD TRUCK FEST with illustrations by Mike Dutton to FSG. I am so lucky to work with Alexandra. She is a business savvy, editorial agent, with infinite connections and a writer’s understanding of how frustrating this business can be. One of the things that drew us together was our mutual love of sports and fitness.

Alexandra, thanks for being on Sporty Girl Books Blog today. Tell me a little about your sports and fitness past and present. How does it shape the stories you like to represent?
I’m a lifelong swimmer from a swimming family. I think I took my first lessons with my mom when I was around 6 months old and it’s been a great passion of mine ever since. I swam competitively in middle school and high school and I still swim today.

Swimming is largely an individual sport, but there’s also an important team dynamic whether you’re cheering on the sidelines, counting laps for a teammate, or swimming a leg of a relay.  I suppose it’s no surprise that I’m interested in characters who challenge themselves, who are trying to find balance, who are negotiating friendships and/or just looking to find their place in the world.

It feels like we are seeing more books about sporty girls? How have you seen the demand for sporty girl books change in the industry?
I definitely think we’re seeing more of a demand for sporty girl books for all ages and I think the books being published cover a wider variety of sports than in the past.

More authors are pushing against the tradition teen female figure skating/romance trope. How do you see the content of sporty girl books changing?
I love seeing books where the sporty girl is the protagonist, not just the athletic sidekick of the main character. It’s also nice to see a broader range of sports represented in books aimed at young girls.

What do you look for in a sporty girl book?
While I’m drawn to books about female athletes, ultimately the story has to stand for itself. The very best sports books show us something about life, about the human experience.

What area of writing craft done poorly leads you to most commonly decline a manuscript?
I read a lot of queries and partials for stories that are good in concept. They may have a great hook or take a clever idea and twist it all around, but if the voice doesn’t ring true, it’s unfortunately going to be a pass for me. Narrative voice is tricky and while you can fix a lot of plot holes or inconsistencies and you can teach someone to improve their dialogue, if the writer hasn’t landed the voice, that’s very hard to overcome.

What area of writing craft done well impresses you the most?
The other side of the coin is that I’ll fall for an authentic voice in a heartbeat. Give me a fresh, real voice and I’ll put everything aside to finish that manuscript.

What new projects are you working on as a writer?
I could tell you but then I’d have to…you know. Just kidding. But seriously, I’m always turning new ideas around in my head, but I never talk about them until they’re in a finished place. Sometimes I find talking about my in-progress projects takes my energy and focus away from completing them. There’s a danger in over-talking an idea, I say, just go for it.

From your mouth-watering pictures on Facebook, I know you are an incredible baker. Donuts, pies, cookies… you seem to be able to bake anything! What recipe/type of food are you hoping to conquer?
I’m always looking to improve my pie-making skills and I’m very pleased at how my lattice weaving is coming along. Though people often remark on my baking, I also enjoy cooking. I’d love to be able to make Korean and Thai food with enough skill and confidence that I could go off recipe and improvise without courting disaster.

If you could have any kind of pie but it would be the only pie for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Apple pie. I know that sounds a bit dull, but there are so many different types of apples and different ways to prepare apple pie, that I’m sure it could keep me happy for years.

As you know, my main character uses speed-round questions in awkward situations and to spur conversation. Here are some specially tailored for you and your love of food. Speed round!
Tea or coffee? Coffee!
Donut or muffin? Donut, of course.
Cake or pie? Gah. Cake. No, pie. No, cake. Ok. I’m just going to go for it…pie.
Bike or run? Run.
Ebook or paper copy? Paper. Don’t you just love that new (or old) book smell?

Another huge thank you to Alexandra Penfold. Just a quick note that she is currently closed for submissions. Find out more about Alexandra and other Upstart Crow agents here or by clicking on the logo.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Athlete Spotlight with Star Volleyball Player Natalie White

Like Erin, who I interviewed last fall, I met Natalie at my church when I worked as her youth leader. Natalie is quick to smile, volunteer to help, and kind enough to take the time out of her extremely competitive schedule to answer a few questions on the blog. She comes from a family of athletes. Her older sisters played collegiate volleyball for St. Mary's in California, Utah Valley University, and Brigham Young University Natalie hopes to follow in their footsteps.

Could you tell us about yourself? 

I am 16 years old. I live in North Carolina and go to Apex High School. I have been playing competitive volleyball since I was 10. 

I mentioned your sisters above, could you tell me about your parents?

My mom played intramural volleyball and football for BYU and my dad played basketball and baseball in college for Long Beach State. He then went on on and played minor league baseball as a pitcher for the Padres. My dad is my biggest supporter and makes the time to come to as many games/tournaments as he can and is never afraid to tell me what I need to work on as an athlete.

You have an impressive sporty family. I'm glad you all support each other so well. You're really tall, right? Are you the tallest girl on your team? How does it feel to tower over most people? 

I am a 6'2" and there are many tall girls on my team who are over 6'1". We all love it when we are together; however, when we are alone at school it's not always something that we absolutely are proud of. 

I had a roommate in college who was 6'2". She struggled sometimes with towering over so many people...especially the guys, but she taught me that whatever height I do have, to stand tall. I hope that you can do that too, but I can image what you mean about that being difficult!
You come from a really athletic family and I know you're also good at basketball. What sports did you play growing up and why did you choose to play JO volleyball? 

#3 with her teammates
Because I was always supporting my older sisters at national tournaments, I have never really played anything else besides volleyball. I did swim for a short summer season when I was 12. I loved both sports and I do regret not being more well rounded sports wise, but I do love where I'm at with volleyball. It was something that I have always enjoyed watching and it was in my blood. 

What position do you play? I bet you're a formidable blocker. Do you have a wicked spike? I imagine you doing those quick center 1 kills. Do you find you work well with your team's setter? Are you able to read each other well? 
I am a right side hitter and set here and there. I'm convinced that I have a powerful swing. The team that I am playing for does some crazy plays through out the game. I love the setters that I have because I realize how difficult the good sets can be. Because I have a good relationship with my setters, I can tell which directions they are going or if they might need help when in a difficult situation. 

I was a setter and a weak side hitter, so yes, having a good relationship with your hitters is key. I'm glad you guys work so well together. Could you tell us about your favorite tournament and why?
My favorite tournament was when I was 14 years old and we went to D.C. for Presidents Day Weekend. The tournament is called Capitol Hill. It is a three day tournament with heavy competition every match. We went undefeated and didn't lose one set!! It was the most rewarding experience I have very been a part of and it will never be forgotten. We played so hard every single day and I loved every second of it.
Spiking over the block.

That sounds wonderful! Being on a traveling team, how do you squeeze in everything you do? I know you're an honor's student and you're active in your church's youth program and even wake up early for seminary before school each day. Is there anything else you also juggle during this season? 
Honestly I don't know how I do it. When I am traveling I try and get as much school work done in small amounts of time. It usually leads to late nights and not so much sleep. When i was 13 I made it a goal that before I turned 16 I wanted to accomplish all of my youth responsibilities so that I could have the joy of something being done and having one less thing on my plate. 

Wow. I know turning 16 was pretty recent. Congrats on reaching those goals! 
What is your favorite book? Do you read sporty girl books?
I do not read many books, but one trilogy that has caught my eye lately is Divergent. Its nothing sporty or anything. I just love the physical and mental strength that she receives through out the whole experience. There is also another book that my Varsity Coach has some girls read that really caught my eye that I would love to read at some point in time. Its called A Mental Thing and it all takes about becomes mentally strong is just as important as being physically strong. 

The Divergent trilogy is really good. I struggled having to wait so long in between books. I'm a little jealous that you can read them all at once (when you have time, that is). I'll have to look into A Mental Thing. Thanks so much for being on the blog today, Natalie! We wish you to best of luck with all your endeavors, athletic, or otherwise:D

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Sporty TV Review: Bella and the Bulldogs

There's a new show on Nickelodeon and it has this sporty book blogger very excited. It's called Bella and the Bulldogs. Here's a blurb about the show from Nickelodeon's publicity site:

Bella and the Bulldogs

A head cheerleaders life takes an unexpected twist when her rifle-like throwing arm takes her from the sidelines to becoming her middle school's starting quarterback in Nickelodeons newest live-action comedy series,Bella and the Bulldogs, premiering Saturday, Jan. 17, at 8 p.m. (ET/PT). In this new comedy Bella Dawson (played by newcomer Brec Bassinger), a confident, caring and talented teenager, suddenly finds herself fulfilling a lifelong dream but also having to navigate the world of her teammates Troy (Coy Stewart), Sawyer (Jackie Radinsky) and Newt (Buddy Handleson), without losing her two best friends, Pepper (Haley Tju) and Sophie (Lilimar) from the cheer squad. The show will air regularly on Saturdays on Nickelodeon.

The show, appropriate for kids 6 and up, does a good job of sharing some of the challenges of being a girl in a boy's sport. While a real player probably faces issues more challenging than stinking on first date, and Bella's problems are solved with less effort than would be experienced in the real world, young girls and boys can still see the importance of working towards your dream and facing challenges, even if they are small. In the first three episodes Bella's teammates try to get her to quit, accuse her of betraying their trust, and force her to take part in their tradition of not showering.  

In the first episode  when Bella gets sad about a problem with her friends, her coach gives her a response similar to Tom Hanks' "There's no crying in baseball."  Coach says, "This is a locker room which means it's a no cry zone. Football players can't afford to get all emotional. We take our feelings and bury them deep inside. Then we burn them out so we can't ever find them. That's what a man does."

But unlike in A League of Their Own, where the baseball player has no response, Bella says, "Well I'm not a man, I'm a girl. And when I feel things I can't pretend that I don't." 

Coach kicks her off the team, but this moment reminds Bella's friends that they were blocking her from living her dream.

Bella's friend tells the boys, "She earned her spot and she deserves to play, but you weren't man enough to let her."

With the support of her mother, her friends, and finally, her new team, Bella leads her team to a victorious game and hopefully a brilliant series. I look forward to watching more episodes of Bella and the Bulldogs. You should check it out too.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Author Interview: Sara B. Larson and IGNITE

Hi, Sara! We’re thrilled to have you here at Sporty Girl Books to celebrate the release of IGNITE, the second book in the DEFY series (released from Scholastic). At Sporty Girl Books we celebrate girls standing up for themselves and playing sports they love. While the Defy series is fantasy, and not a book we typically spotlight, I was thrilled when you said you would be on the blog, because if Alexa isn’t a kick a** sporty girl, I don’t know who is. I reviewed DEFY last January after devouring it in five hours. (You can read my review here). It was such a fun, fast-paced, twisting read that I can’t wait to read Ignite. I’m so glad you enjoyed DEFY so much – and I certainly hope you will enjoy IGNITE as well!

From Goodreads: Spoilera Alert. If you haven't read DEFY, this gives a few things away:
Thanks, Sara! It was so fun to have you here. 

Murder, abductions, and forbidden romance abound in this thrilling sequel to Sara B. Larson's acclaimed YA debut, DEFY.Alexa remains by the newly crowned King Damian’s side as his guard, ever committed to helping him rebuild Antion and reclaim the hope of Antion's people, despite continuing to harbor a secret love for him. However, when another threat to Damian and his kingdom emerges, and blame is cast on their newly forged allies from Blevon, Alexa knows things are not what they seem. With the fate of her nation hanging in the balance once again, will Alexa be able to protect her king and uncover the true enemy -- before it's too late?

In her childhood, it was dangerous to be a girl. Could you tell us a bit about what she ran from and why she pretended to be a boy? In Alexa’s world, orphans were used to build the kings armies. Boys were forced into the armies and the girls had an even worse fate. Her twin brother convinced her to cut off her hair and pretend they were twin boys to avoid what orphan girls had to suffer.

I definitely wouldn't want to be a girl in her kingdom! Alexa excels as a warrior, she’s gifted enough to be the first of the prince’s guards. Did you take fencing lessons to learn how to write the Deny series? No, I didn’t – though I would love to! I’ve read so many books with sword fighting and watched so many movies, I would just picture the fight scenes as if they were a movie and then try to describe them. My agent is a ninja—literally, a black belt ninja—and has done sword fighting training, so I asked him if I’d got it all correct and he said I had!

Wow, I'm impressed, both in your writing and your agent's black belt. Can you tell us about where Alexa draws her strength from? I think Alexa is a very strong-willed and stubborn person, so much of her strength stems from that. But she also draws strength from her desire to protect those she loves. Losing her parents was a terrible blow, especially her father who she’d had a special bond with and who had believed in her with all his heart. Because of that she doesn’t always love easily, but when she does, she loves fiercely and would do anything to keep those people safe from harm.

If I remember right, you’re a runner. Do you run for the love of it, or for the workout, or both? I’m running again since i’ve had my baby and not yet back to the love of running, but I hope to get there soon! Do you play other sports, as well? Some of both, which I think is how it always is, right? Running is definitely a love/hate relationship. Most runs are hard. Especially because I have a bad knee that keeps acting up and not letting me add distance to my runs. But the times when you hit that elusive “runner’s high” – ahhhh, that’s what it’s all about. That makes it all worth it. I also take classes at my gym and do lots of weight training. I’m not great at any sports, but I do play most of them adequately. I used to swim and dive competitively as a teenager, and I loved playing basketball, soccer, and football with my guy friends growing up, before they got too big and wouldn’t let me anymore.

Yes, that elusive "runner's high." I'm running towards that, for sure. I have to be careful with one of my knees, as well. Could you tell us about your road to publication? It was long and hard! I queried for about 2 and a half years before I got my first agent. I was with her for two years and on sub three times, before we eventually parted ways. She was a lovely person, but just not the best fit professionally for me. I then queried for 9 months with two projects and while I got very close to getting another agent multiple times, it didn’t quite work out. But that’s when I wrote DEFY. And with DEFY everything was different. I had my first offer from an agent within two days, and I accepted Josh Adam’s offer a week later. We went out on submission right after that, and within a month, we’d accepted Scholastic’s offer!

I'm glad you kept pushing forward and believing in yourself. DEFY is a book I'm glad the world has, and I'm confident I'll feel the same about IGNITE. Have you always written fantasy? Are all your characters “sporty girls”? I usually lean towards having at least some magic in my stories, but not always. I do have a few books I’ve written in different genres. Not all of my female characters are super “sporty” but I’d say most of them are athletic, tough, and all of them can hold her own when it comes down to it.

What are you reading right now? MARK OF THE THIEF by Jennifer Nielsen – her awesome new MG that is coming out next month! I love her characters, they are always so great!

*Jealous* I want to read MARK OF THE THIEF. I'm on a MG reading kid right now. Do you have a favorite sporty girl read? Oh it’s always so hard to pick just one! How about a few recent faves? NIL UNLOCKED is the sequel to NIL and I really love Skye – she’s about the toughest, sporty girl you’ll meet—her dad’s made sure of it! In THIS SHATTERED WORLD Lee is also tough, but she has to be, as the commander over all those soldiers on such a difficult planet. Loved her, too! And finally GRAVE MERCY series: Assassin Nuns. Nothing else need be said.

I recently read the entire GRAVE MERCY series for the first time. Yes, absolutely brilliant books. I'll have to add THIS SHATTERER WORLD to my TBR PILE Is there anything else you’d like to share? Thank you so much for having me today!

Where you can find Sara: Blog, Website, TwitterFacebook
Where yo can find IGNITE: Goodreads, Amazon, B&N

Sara B. Larson is the author of the acclaimed YA Fantasy DEFY that released from Scholastic in January 2014, and the sequel IGNITE (December 30th, 2014). She can’t remember a time when she didn’t write books—although she now uses a computer instead of a Little Mermaid notebook. Sara lives in Utah with her husband and their three children. She writes during naptime and the quiet hours when most people are sleeping. Her husband claims she should have a degree in “the art of multitasking.” When she’s not mothering or writing, you can often find her at the gym repenting of her sugar addiction. She is represented by Josh Adams of Adams Literary.

I'm lucky to be interviewing two authors today. You can check out my interview with Dianne K. Salerni on the 2nd book in her incredible MG series, The Eighth Day, here.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Cover Reveal for ANY WAY YOU SLICE IT

I am so excited to be able to reveal the cover for ANY WAY YOU SLICE IT. I hope you'll be seeing my beautiful cover all over the interwebs today! I've got a great team of friends who are helping me. The Sporty Girl Books blog is near and dear to me, though, so this is the only place you'll find the Rafflecopter giveaway (scroll down to the bottom.)

Without further ado...here's the cover and the blurb. Look for the book on your virtual bookstore shelves on April 7, 2015.
Penelope Spaulding just can't catch a break. Between long hours at the family restaurant, homework, and her parents' plans for her future, it's hard to find a spare moment to breathe. But when she laces up her skates and steps on the ice, everything slips away...
Racing around the rink allows her to blow off steam after yet another fight with her dad about going to culinary school. So when Jake Gomes, the bad boy who lives down the street, dares her to join the Rink Rats, the local misfit hockey team, she surprises herself and joins in silent defiance of her father and his expectations.
The more she plays, the easier it is to keep lying, and soon Pen finds it impossible to come clean. She’s sneaking out to practice—and loving every minute of it. It doesn’t take long for her to fall in love with hockey…and Jake’s not half bad either. But she knows it can’t last. As soon as her dad finds out, she’ll be benched. For good.
She’s absolutely not going to tell her parents until she’s sure it will be worth the inevitable fight. Not only is she skipping shifts at Slice Pizza while a foodie reality show is on the horizon, but her lies are starting to take their toll on her game. It’s only a matter of time before everything falls apart.
With the team counting on her and with her relationship with Jake on the line, will she have to sacrifice the thing she wants most for the people she loves? Or can she step up and take her best shot?
ANY WAY YOU SLICE IT will be available HERE from Bloomsbury Spark on April 7, 2015. 

Mark it to read on Goodreads

About the Author:
Kristine Asselin lives in Massachusetts and writes Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction. In addition to ANY WAY YOU SLICE IT, she is the author of fifteen children's books for the elementary school library market. The most recent, DANGEROUS DISEASES, was published in 2014. Kris is a volunteer with the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts, and loves Harry Potter, Doctor Who, classic rock from the 70’s and 80’s, and anything with a time travel theme. She is a proud member of SCBWI-New England, the Fall Fourteeners (a group blog of YA debut authors), Sporty Girl Books blog, and #MGLitChat.

Kris presents writing workshops at schools and libraries all over New England and loves talking with kids and adults about their favorite books. ANY WAY YOU SLICE IT is her debut Young Adult novel.

Here's the Rafflecopter Giveaway! I'm giving away gift cards, a query package critique, some books from fellow Spark authors, and a signed copy of DANGEROUS DISEASES.

a Rafflecopter giveaway