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.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

#WomeninBaseballWeek Nonfiction Picture Books

Each day this week we will be sharing books about girls and women who play baseball. Today we are focusing on nonfiction picture books. Blurbs are from Amazon.

The true story of Marcenia Lyle, an African American girl who grew up to become "Toni Stone," the first woman to play for a professional baseball team. 

When Alta Weiss throws a corncob at a tomcat chasing her favorite hen, folks know one thing for sure: she may be a girl, but she's got some arm. At the age of six Alta can nail any target, and by seventeen she's outpitched every boy in town. Then one day her father takes Alta to Vermilion, Ohio -- home of the semipro baseball team called the Independents. "Where do I sign up?" she asks. But one look at Alta tells the coach all he needs to know: She's a girl, and girls can't play baseball. But faster than you can say "strike out," Alta proves him wrong: Girls can play baseball!

Did you know that one of America's favorite songs, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," was written about a girl? And that in the 1940s girls all across America were crazy for our country's favorite game?
These little known facts inspired Shana Corey to imagine a story about how one determined girl made her way to the big leagues & found a sisterhood of players in pigtails. With the same exuberant spirit that fueled the formation of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, joyful text & jubilant pictures celebrate these brave girls' love of the game & the league they called their own.

Ten-year-old Dandi (affectionately called "Dan" by family and friends) lives and breathes baseball. She may not be a fence buster but she can "hit 'em where they ain't" in the neighborhood pick-up games. The boys know she's a contender. And there's no bigger fan of the 1961 Kansas City A's. So when Charlie Finley, the A's new owner, announces an essay contest to get batboys, there's no doubt Dandi will enter the contest. Dandi not only enters the contest--her essay wins! However, her joy is short-lived when the contest officials enforce the For Boys Only rule. Long before the boundary-breaking ruling of Title IX, young women across the country used grit and determination to prove that barriers of gender have no place on a level playing field.

Beginning in 1922, when Edith Houghton was only ten years old, she tried out for a women’s professional baseball team, the Philadelphia Bobbies. Though she was the smallest on the field, soon reporters were talking about “The Kid” and her incredible skill, and crowds were packing the stands to see her play. Her story reminds us that baseball has never been about just men and boys. Baseball is also about talented girls willing to work hard to play any way they can.

Effa always loved baseball. As a young woman, she would go to Yankee Stadium just to see Babe Ruth’s mighty swing. But she never dreamed she would someday own a baseball team. Or be the first—and only—woman ever inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. From her childhood in Philadelphia to her groundbreaking role as business manager and owner of the Newark Eagles, Effa Manley always fought for what was right. And she always swung for the fences.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

#WomeninBaseballWeek July 22 - 28, 2018

Next week is Women in Baseball Week. To help celebrate, Sporty Girl Books will be sharing kidlit books about girl and women who play baseball.

Here's our schedule:

July 22: Nonfiction Picture Books
July 23: Fiction Picture Books
July 24: Nonfiction Middle Grade
July 25: Fiction Middle Grade
July 26: Nonfiction Young Adult
July 27: Fiction Young Adult
July 28: Books Releasing Summer 2018 and Beyond

We hope you will join us in celebrating these books, adding them to your list, sharing them with kids, and letting us know about any we forget. 

For more about Women in Baseball Week, see the flyer below.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Interview with author of Tiny Infinities, J.H. Diehl

I really enjoyed reading TINY INFINITIES by J.H. Diehl. Today I am delighted to introduce you to her and her book. J.H. Diehl spent a dozen years as a summer swim team mom and more years cheering from the pool deck at high school swim meets. TINY INFINTIES (Chronicle, May 2018), is her debut MG novel about a swimmer. It is a Fall 2018 Junior Library Guild Selection. J.H. has an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and her short fiction received a Maryland Individual Artist Award and a Michener-Copernicus Fellowship. 

One of the driving forces in your main character Alice is her love of swimming. Why did you decide to make her a swimmer? Did you swim competitively when you were Alice’s age?
The idea for TINY INFINITIES came from a picture of a fantastical firefly that my daughter drew in third grade. The moment I saw it, an image entered my head of an older girl standing by a younger girl in the dark, with their hands cupped around glowing fireflies. The younger girl was saying the word ‘bugfire’ – the first word she’d spoken in years. When I unspooled a story from this scene, I knew it had to take place during the summer, because the season for fireflies is summer. 

I wanted the older girl - my main character, whom I named Alice - to have a summer activity and a place to go outside her home. I wanted her also to be passionate about a goal besides her goal to reunite her family. My kids swam on a summer team for more than a decade. I knew a summer swim team would be perfect for Alice. So you could say I came to swimming in a roundabout way. That is, I didn’t set out at first to write about a competitive swimmer. But as soon as I started, swimming, as you say, quickly became a driving force in the book. Alice’s team, her practice schedule, and the sport itself soon became vital and organic to the story. The Cherrywood Sharks’ competition schedule provided a framework on which to hang a number of important plot twists. The pool became the setting for a number of important scenes. And for me, Alice’s story became one that is partly about how a sport can help a kid through tough times.

I didn’t grow up swimming competitively – but I did marry into a swimming family. In fact, I’m the only person in two generations who did not swim competitively at some point. However, my dozen years as a summer swim team parent provided plenty of inspiration. And I had lots of in-house expertise to consult, whenever I needed it.

Some of the many things I love about summer swim teams are – I’m guessing – translatable to many other sports. There are opportunities to experience success and failure. There is almost always a way to find something positive in your own personal swim times. Likewise, there is almost always somebody who’s faster than you are, unless you are Katie Ledecky – who in fact grew up swimming in the summer league that I used as a model in this book.

Like my character Alice, you are part of team, and competing against other swimmers, but really you’re competing against yourself, and trying to improve. Swim team also gives kids great opportunities to build physical and emotional strength, and leadership skills. And there are opportunities for friendships with peers that kids might not have gravitated to otherwise. This is true for Alice, who makes friends with a new member of the team, Harriet, who’s just moved to town and happens to be the same age. It’s thanks to their swim team that these two unlikely friends forge a bond that, in the end, helps each one, in very different ways, to do some growing up.

I really liked Alice’s swim coach, Coach B. She was so supportive and she seemed to know Alice better than most of the adults in her life. Did you model her on anyone?
In the universe of most middle grade novels, the main character has parents or another adult relative who provides a safe, secure haven for a young person who’s out in the world facing a challenge. In TINY INFINITIES, I was interested in characterizing a version of what it’s like to grow up without that emotional safe haven. A few secondary adult characters are – to an extent – supports for Alice, and Coach B (for Bowling) is one of them. She isn’t modeled on any one person. For me, she represents all those wise teachers and mentors you hope each child’s life will intersect with. People who aren’t related, but who can see a lot of what’s going on with a young person – and whose job it is to motivate and encourage. I borrowed Coach B’s name from a beloved former music teacher at a local elementary school, and her love of corny puns echoes my late dad (I’ve been told I inherited this corny streak…).

The title of your book is Tiny Infinites. Can you tell us more about that idea and how it became part of the book? 
The title comes from a conversation between Alice and Harriet early in the story. They’re in the pool snack bar, after swim practice one afternoon, when Harriet talks about her birthday, which is Pi Day, and the number pi. She marvels that the difference between an infinite number like pi, and the number it gets rounded off to in many math problems – 3.14 – is so tiny: “Shouldn’t there be a huge difference between infinity and any number that has a definite end? Isn’t it interesting that the real difference between an infinite number like pi and a finite one like three point one four turns out to be a very tiny decimal? An infinitesimal decimal, to be as exact as possible about that inexactness?”

Then she and Alice discuss whether or not there’s a big difference between hot and cold – or is that a teeny tiny infinity, too? Alice translates this idea to her family, and wonders about “the point at which my parents had gone from loving each other to not loving – was that a teeny tiny change, too? What had made the difference between them deciding we could all be a family of five, and my dad living someplace else?” 

Also, as Alice’s summer unfolds, she spends a lot of time parsing the difference between lying to the adults in her life and not lying. Especially when she attempts to prove that she really was telling the truth when she heard a word spoken by her four-year-old neighbor, whom everybody else believes to be mute.

Part of Alice’s growing up in the book has to do with deciding where boundaries lie; and in knowing when she has to draw them in herself.

What was your journey to publication? 
Before TINY INFINITIES, I published two picture books and wrote leveled readers for educational publishers; I’ve also published fiction for grown-up audiences in journals and magazines and worked as a newspaper reporter. The journey for Tiny Infinitieswas long and windy, because I had other projects along the way. But, ultimately, it’s been an extremely satisfying one, in large part due to Chronicle Books, a great home for me and this novel, and my wonderful editor there, Taylor Norman. 

Do you have any advice for someone writing a sporty girl book?
Focus on your character(s) specific experiences of the sport, or sports, in your book; find a way to make the sport itself organic to both the action and themes of your story. In other words, try to integrate the sport – how it’s played, its rules, regulations, necessary equipment – with the plot’s twists and turns, your character’s goals, the themes you’re exploring and the questions the book raises. However, even if you’re writing from inside the sport, with expert knowledge, find ways to characterize it that a reader unfamiliar with the sport can relate to. Creative similes and descriptive verbs can help. Be careful to strike a balance between creating believability - through the use of idioms and terminology specific to that sport - with the need to reach out to readers who aren’t familiar it. This can help you to connect the specifics of the action to the more universal conflicts and themes of your story. 

Want to know more about J.H. Diehl? You visit her website: https://www.jhdiehl.com/, follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @jhdiehl and on Facebook at @jhdiehlbooks.

And don’t forget to check out TINY INFINITIES

From Indiebound: When Alice's dad moves out, leaving her with her troubled mother, she does the only thing that feels right: she retreats to her family's old Renaissance tent in the backyard, determined to live there until her dad comes home. In an attempt to keep at least one part of her summer from changing, Alice focuses on her quest to swim freestyle fast enough to get on her swim team's record board. But summers contain multitudes, and soon Alice meets an odd new friend, Harriet, whose obsession with the school's science fair is equal only to her conviction that Alice's best stroke is backstroke, not freestyle. Most unexpected of all is an unusual babysitting charge, Piper, who is mute--until Alice hears her speak. A funny and honest middle-grade novel, this sharply observed depiction of family, friendship, and Alice's determination to prove herself--as a babysitter, as a friend, as a daughter, as a person--rings loud and true.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Book Review: A SKATING LIFE by Dorothy Hamill with Deborah Amelon

Before the United States figure skating world had female national champions named Bradie, Ashley, Sasha, Michelle, Tara, Nancy, Kristi, Tonya, Debi, Rosalynn, and Linda . . . there was Dorothy. I found myself thinking about Dorothy Hamill this past month while watching the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. I was 11-years old in 1974 when she won her first U.S. National Championship title which was followed two years later with an Olympic gold medal at the 1976 Winter Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria. Like hundreds of young girls, I wanted to have a wedge haircut like hers that would swing around my face when I was gliding across the ice. Unfortunately, since I only skated outside in the cold I had to wear a wool hat and, with my long curly hair, there was no chance of replicating her short and sassy do.

I picked up a copy of her memoir, A SKATING LIFE: MY STORY (published in 2007) and it was a revelation to learn about the challenging relationships (family, competition, work-related, and love life) that she navigated. Hamill opens with a Prologue from 1976 where she is on the podium in Innsbruck and unable to find her Mom in the stands. She did not go to watch her daughter compete. At the hotel afterward, her mother asks how she did and after Dorothy tells her she won her reply is, “That’s nice, Dorothy.” Thus, this sets the stage for a heart wrenching account of a complicated mother/daughter relationship.

Hamill shares the numerous sacrifices her parents made to help her achieve her dreams, the multiple coaches and figure skating professionals she worked with over the years, and the difficulties of juggling a professional skating career while maintaining her personal relationships. The heartbreaking pain of her two divorces are told with raw honesty. But there is a shining light throughout, her daughter Alexandra. Eventually, with time, maturity, and therapy she grows to understand the complicated circumstances of her life and at the end of the book, comes full circle to find peace with her mother.

This book may be a few years old, but it’s relevant and sure to tug at the hearts of figure skating fans and athletes grappling with a complicated parental relationship. This serves as a reminder that the beauty we see in athletic performances (often lasting only a few minutes) can be a culmination of many years filled with hard falls, financial sacrifice, insecurities, stage fright, and painful personal challenges. Dorothy Hamill’s life on and off the ice is a poignant story of an important figure in American sports history whose personal journey of determination and perseverance is one to be admired.  

The 2018 PyeongChang Paralympic Winter Games are coming up from March 9-18 and they don’t have Figure Skating but they do have Alpine Skiing, Biathlon, Cross-Country Skiing, Curling, Sled Hockey and Snowboard.  
For information: www.paralympic.org

Dorothy Hamill founded an adaptive ice-skating program at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, MD, so that children with physical disabilities could enjoy recreational ice skating. For information: http://i-skate.kennedykrieger.org

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Wild Bird Review

Last year we had the honor to interview Wendell Van Dranan for her book, The Running Dream. You can read the interview here.

This year she released Wild Bird. This, too, is a story of struggle and overcoming, of becoming something you don't know if you can be anymore. This is the story of a lonely new girl who fell into the wrong crowd in 6th grade and started doing drugs. This is the story of her parents forcing her to go to Loa, a wilderness survival camp where if you want a drink you have to find your own water in the desert. If you want to eat your rations, you have to make fire with your bow, if you want to wash yourself, you have to make soap out of the yucca plant, and if you want to change yourself and find strength, you can.

As my daughters and I listened to the audiobook read by Alex McKenna, we felt  Wren truly was a warrior. We couldn't listen to it fast enough.

To me this book is a case of a sporty girl who didn't know she was sporty. She became an avid hiker, a reader of the stars and scat, an expert fire builder, and someone who could not only fight coyotes, but the voices and addictions within herself.

Wren is a rock star. If you're looking for a book to gift, I would recommend both of these!

From the ladies at Sporty Girl Books, we wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a Happy New Year.

See you in 2018!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Book Review: Martina & Chrissie = Tennis Rivals + Friends Off the Court

A few weeks ago I enjoyed watching “Battle of the Sexes” about the infamous 1973 matchup between tennis greats Billy Jean King and Bobby Riggs. And this past weekend I got a text that my brother Paul (who has been playing competitive tennis since the 1970s) won the USTA 55 + older (8.0) National Championships! Needless to say, I have had tennis on the brain and was excited to read MARTINA & CHRISSIE: THE GREATEST RIVALRY IN THEHISTORY OF SPORTS by Phil Bildner.

This picture book introduces readers to two vastly different tennis players, Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, who both discovered their sport at a young age and skyrocketed to national champion titles as teenagers. They spent years as adversaries competing against each other 80 times, yet they forged a friendship that has endured to this day. Bildner covers their different backgrounds (United States/Czechoslovakia), playing styles (baseline/serve-and-volley), and personalities (controlled/emotional). Brett Helquist’s artwork is delightful, especially the spreads of iconic matches like the French Open highlighting their dramatic back and forth leads and even Martina getting nailed in the head by a shot from Chrissie at Wimbledon.

I found the tone, however, a bit confusing and wondered who was the intended audience. The pre-introductory page begins, “Hey, guys—yeah, I’m talking to you...” and further along “Guys, Martina OWNED the net” and “But guys, numbers NEVER tell the whole story.” It reads like a continuation of a dispute with someone (e.g., the guys) about why Martina and Chrissie are the greatest rivalry in the history of sports. Thus, notably missing is any content to support the subtitle—what about Borg vs. McEnroe, Williams vs. Williams, or Seles vs. Graff? And what about other sports other than tennis?

Nevertheless, MARTINA & CHRISSIE is a welcome addition to sporty girl biography collection for anyone interested in learning about these tennis icons, and I’m sure it will motivate some readers to pick up a racket and head to their neighborhood tennis courts. The supporting back matter includes a helpful timeline and source list.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Cover Reveal: Any Way You Slice It by Kristine Carlson Asselin

We are so excited to be able to show off the new cover for Kristine Carlson Asselin's Any Way You Slice It

About the book: 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?

And now for the big reveal!

Any Way You Slice It will rerelease in November. If you are in the Littleton, MA area, you can celebrate with the author at Valley Wild Books.  

Can't be there? Celebrate at home with this wonderful pizza dessert recipe:

Penelope’s Dessert Pizza

*1 can(s) crescent rolls
1/4 c butter, cold
1/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c flour
pinch of salt
1/2 c powdered sugar
1 Tbsp butter, soft
1 1/4 tsp vanilla
1-1 1/2 Tbsp milk

*Penelope would have you know that using a pre-made dough is cheating. But some of us can’t stay up past midnight to pound out the dough like she can. So we happily use pre-made dough.

1.     Preheat oven to 400.
2.     First things first, roll out the crescent rolls into 8 triangles—be sure to use an ungreased cookie sheet. These babies are pre-greased so you don’t need anything else.
3.     Cut in the butter to the mixture of sugar, cinnamon, salt and flour to form crumbles. Use a fork or a pastry blender or your fingers! Be sure the butter is COLD for best results. Try not to eat too much of the crumble, but it will be tempting. Licking fingers is excusable.
4.     Sprinkle the dough with crumbs and throw those bad boys into the oven for 8 to 12 minutes.
5.     After it all cools, cut into smaller triangles and drizzle with glaze.
6.     And now the fun part: EAT and Enjoy!

If you make these, take a picture and post with #AnyWayYouSliceIt and don’t forget to tag @KristineAsselin w/ all your pizza photos. To learn more about Kristine and her books, visit her online.