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, May 24, 2016

Book Review: MVP Series by David A. Kelly


I first discovered David A. Kelly's mystery series when my son was in second grade. He was a reluctant reader at the time but how could he resist a book with a ballpark on the cover? He found the series engaging because not only did he get to explore behind the scenes with a group of kids solving a mystery, he was also able to explore the area. My daughter was excited to read them too. When we'd go on vacation to places with ballparks both kids would recognize scenes in the book.

David A. Kelly's new series, Most Valuable Players or MVPs, is just as entertaining except instead of exploring ballparks, this time a group of kids solve mysteries the revolve around different sports.

In the first book, The Gold Medal Mess, Alice, Kat, Max, Nico, and Luke are getting ready for the school Olympics when they find a note for someone threatening to cancel the games. After showing the note to adults, the kids decide to investigate themselves, piecing together clues along the way. I won't tell you want happens, but by the end the kids have a chance to participate in sports and solve a mystery and the reader can follow them along for the ride.

While these series may not be specifically sporty GIRL books, the diverse cast of characters in both series includes sporty girls, sporty boys, and girls and boys who do not play sports. In other words, a group of kids that look just like any group of elementary kids. Which is awesome. I highly recommend both series for any young reader.










Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Sporty Book Birthday! GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE by Paula Stokes

Today is the book birthday for GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE, the wonderful new young adult novel by Paula Stokes from Harper Teen. (Advanced Reader Copy provided by the author.) It’s never too late to catch up on your Paula Stokes reading. We have an interview with her about her 2014 release THE ART OF LAINEY or you can check out Paula’s Facebook, Twitter or Website.


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 So why do I say this book is wonderful? It’s layered. With GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE, Paula Stokes gives us a sporty girl book featuring tennis, a romance based on friendship, and a deeply serious look at mental illness.

Maguire has been through a lot in her young life. In her early teens her father, uncle and brother were killed in a car accident while she walked away without a scratch. Later, a roller coaster careened off the tracks and again she was fine in the midst of suffering. But when her candle set the neighbor’s home on fire things became all to clear for Maguire. She was bad luck, cursed. Her very presence was sure to injure others. At least that’s what she believes. In order to control her world she does safety checks, avoids public transportation, won’t drive with others and hides away from others. It’s not until she meets a wonderful behavioral therapist that things start to change for her.

Maguire’s concrete desire drives the plot and keeps the reader squarely in Maguire’s court. “I want to see where my dad grew up, see my grandma again, meet all my relatives” (Stokes, 28.) The problem? Grandma is in Ireland and Maguire is sure if she’s on that plane, it’ll go down and no one will survive. The reader realizes that the task is large but she is rooting for Maguire every step of the way.

The reader isn’t the only one rooting for Maguire. Stokes has surrounded Maguire with other characters who challenge and support her. The romantic lead is tennis star, Jordy who also sees Dr. Leeds. The friendship between Maguire and Jordy grows believably over time and while there are plenty of references to Jordy’s hotness, I was pleased to see that Stokes allows these teens with issues to take it slowly—and uses humor to build their relationship. Maguire and Jordy have an easy banter that doesn’t feel forced or overly scripted.

The other thing that evolves slowly is Maguire and Jordy’s individual mental health treatment successes. There are no silver bullets when it comes to dealing with mental health issues and early on in the book, when Maguire is ready to be "fixed," Dr. Leeds explains that that isn’t how therapy works.

“You’re not a toaster, Maguire. You’re not here to be fixed…The first thing you need to realize is that mental health is fluid. It’s not like you have an infection and a doctor gives you antibiotics and then you’re cured. No matter what the two of us accomplish together, you’re still going to have good days and bad days…”(Stokes, 27.)

Maguire’s good days come through hard work. She creates a series of goals to work through her PTSD and OCD issues. The goals are presented in a list-form that is seamlessly integrated so it doesn’t stop the flow of the story. (Way to go designers!)    

I did have a few concerns: the friends in her new high school sometimes feel like they stepped off a teen movie set, and there was one point when I jotted down that a scene could have been slowed down to unpack the emotional impact for Maguire.

The most important note I made was, “I don’t want to stop reading!” and if you’re anything like me—GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE, will be on your shelf of sporty girl favorites. 

Reading fiction heightens your awareness and is a catalyst for connections. At the same time I read GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE (April 2016), the magazine Women’s Health published a fabulous article, “Which One of these Women Has Mental Illness,” about the stigmas and realities of living with mental illnesses and the National Center for Health Statistics released their report on suicide. Suicide rates in this country have consistently and constantly increased. A slow rising line that symbolizes the mountain that seems insurmountable for so many who take their own lives. If you are living with any type of mental illness including anxiety, or depression, or if you know someone who is, please get help.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1800273TALK (8255)
SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline –1‑877‑SAMHSA7 (1‑877‑726‑4727)

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Book Review: KID ATHLETES: TRUE TALES OF CHILDHOOD FROM SPORTS LEGENDS


Most elite athletes have inspirational stories of how they became a world-class competitor. For some it’s natural ability plus determination, for others it’s childhood circumstances paired with unlikely opportunities. KIDATHLETES by David Stabler and illustrated by Doogie Horner is a part of the Kid Legends series and this collection of tales of sixteen famous athletes including these five female pioneers who are not only relatable but also sure to inspire sporty girls:
Billie Jean King (The Girl Who Ran on Racket Power)
Danica Patrick (Girl without Fear)
Gabrielle Douglas (Grace under Pressure)
Babe Didrikson Zaharias (A Girl for All Seasons)
Julie Krone (And the Marvelous Mischievous Pony)

I’ve always enjoyed “did you know” articles and books that share lesser known facts and tidbits. I have to say that KID ATHLETES, a biographical collection of famous men and women, did not disappoint.

NASCAR driver Danica Patrick may have been squeamish around bugs and swimming in the ocean as a little girl but at age nine a fearless Patrick discovered the thrill of driving fast in a go-kart. I learned something new; I did not know that her mom had worked as a snowmobile mechanic or that she left high school to move to England and join a race-racing team.
Before the infamous Bobby Riggs tennis match, Billie Jean King had to overcome roadblocks to competition placed by tennis official Perry Jones (also known as a “czar”) to compete. She also scrimped and saved loose change to buy her first tennis racket ($8).  I do have a critique with the opening of this entry: “Before Billie Jean King, tennis was a sport played by wealthy women in frilly white dresses She made it possible for anyone, from any background, to dream of one day winning the U.S. Open or Wimbledon championship.” While Billie Jean King certainly broke down barriers, Althea Gibson was winning Championships and breaking down barriers years earlier.
 
How many kids are drawn to a sport via the influenced of a sibling? Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas learned how to do a cartwheel from her older sister and that eventually led down a path to a gold medal in gymnastics at the 2012 Olympic Games. Throughout her career she shows poise and strength on gymnastics apparatus but choosing to ignore several incidents of bullying shows a different type of poise and strength.

Babe Didrikson Zaharias, considered the greatest female athlete of the twentieth century, was tough from the get-go – as a baby she defied the constrained of her crib and I doubt many athletes also could add to their resume they performed with a traveling circus.  

The first woman to be inducted into the Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame, Julie Krone was drawn to a pony named Filly as a child. This is a heartwarming tale that comes full circle and a delightful introduction to this trailblazing jockey, especially timely now that we’re in Triple Crown season.

What do these women have in common? They are all amazing athletes but first they were just a kid who you might have sat next to you in third grade or who lived in the house down the street. In addition to the easy-to-read narrative, the humorous drawings make this an entertaining, enjoyable read.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Sporty Girl Books Out This Summer

Picture Books
Gymnastics:
Nadia, the Girl Who Couldn't Sit Still by Karlin Grey and C. Davener (June 7th)
*I wanted to be Nadia Comanichi when I was younger, so I can't wait for this book. I won't embarrass myself by admitted how many times I watched the made-for-tv movie of her life;)


Middle Grade
Baseball:
The Distance to Home by Jenn Bishop (June 28th)
*The cover on this one tugs at my heart. I can't wait to read it.


Young Adult
Cross-Country:
Ask Me How I Got Here by Christine Heppermann (Today, May 3rd!)
*As a HS cross-country runner, I want to get my hands on this book.

Swimming:
Gold Fish ny Nat Lurrtsema (June 7th)
*Goodreads reviews all said absolutely hilarious. I can't resist a FUNNY sporty read.
Soccer:
Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally (July 5th)
*Miranda Kenneally, need I say more?

The Season by Jonal Lisa Dyer and Stephen Dyer (July 12th)
*This one sounds hilarious. Sporty girl stuck in Debutant Land. Ouch

Gymnastics: 
Tumbling by Cada Carter (June 7th)
*Five points of view, and from reviews, done well.

Lessons In Falling by Diana Gallagher (June 16th)
*The cover drew me to this one. I hope the story feels just like it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Equal Play, Equal Pay

Last summer the eyes of many in the United States turned north as the Women's Soccer Team won the World Cup. People from all over the country jumped into their cars in order to be there to share the experience. Without knowing in advance who would be in the semi-finals, my family had already made attending the semi-final game part of our Canadian vacation.



The atmosphere in the stadium was electric. The cement walls vibrated with excitement as people stood and cheered every play. It was so loud that my daughter and I held our hands over our ears for most of the game. By the time it was over our voices were horse and our smiles were wide. 

By the final game we had re-entered the US and had made our way to a hotel in New Hampshire. The bar of the hotel filled with people as dozens came together to cheer the US team. Men, women, and children stood together waiting for the final buzzer to sound. For many it was a summer highlight.

But the excitement of last summer was slightly diminished when conversations turned to some serious inequities that exist between the men and women's teams, such as this one from Quartz in July. Last month more articles were published in light of the fact that 5 of the women filed a complaint of wage discrimination. Business Insider has a good article to explain some of the details.

Hopefully we are finally at a place where we can continue these conversations and not dismiss the complaints.

Want to help your child learn more about women's soccer? Hand him or her a biography. Here's a great one about Mia Hamm.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

GOOD SPORTS and FASTEST GAME ON TWO FEET Showcase Sports + Poetry


My last post was in advance of National Poetry Month and now that we’re midway through the month that celebrates prose, rhyme, and verse I couldn’t resist sharing two additional titles: GOOD SPORTS by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Chris Raschka and THE FASTEST GAME ON TWO FEET by Alice Low and illustrated by John O’Brien.

Jack Prelutsky was named our nation’s first Children’s Poet Laureate in 2006 and like many who grew up near Yankee Stadium (or any similar stadium) is a baseball fan. GOOD SPORTS is filled with delightful rhymes about running, jumping, and throwing. It includes team sports like baseball, basketball, soccer plus gymnastics, surfing, and karate. Girls are sure to identify with sports they are currently playing or would like to try. The illustrations by award-winning, Raschka are both full of motion and whimsical. While sports stories often focus on scoring the touchdown or finishing first, my favorite poems reflected the in-between moments of participation like the daydreaming swimmer who isn’t sinking to the bottom but can make it to the opposite end of the pool or the basketball player longing for the day they can dunk, “When I grow three feet taller.”

I readily admit to not knowing the history for several of the 19 sports featured in Alice Low’s THE FASTEST GAME ON TWO FEET AND OTHER POEMS ABOUT HOW SPORTS BEGAN. Like me, readers will be fascinated to learn that the origin of soccer goes back to kicking a skull around an old battlefield, or Mary, Queen of Scots, was likely the first female golfer, and the first skiers probably strapped animal bones to their shoes to move around faster! Each sport is introduced with the origin of the name and brief history followed by a poem that reflects the history. While some poems worked better than others, the combination of all plus informative endnotes makes this a must-have for any sports collection. Low is not only a writer but also a sporty girl with fond memories of learning sports at camp and at five feet three inches tall, she was the captain of her basketball team. The ink and watercolor drawings are captivating. I found myself flipping back over the pages to view all the fine details. One of my favorite illustrations was for ice skater Sonya Henie, “Girl in White.” Look for the cursive message she skates on ice. My only critique – likely due to, alas, getting older – is the small typeface on the introductions of each sport. The dark background color and small font size made some pages difficult to read.

Both of these picture books capture the joyful experiences that come with play and the illustrations compliment the text beautifully. Each author and illustrator shine a light on the world of play and word play.



Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Sporty Girl Books Needs Your Coaching!

Spring has sprung in most of the country (even though it feels like 18º here in Maine) and teams are practicing outdoors and in gyms for a season of new competition. Here at Sporty Girl Books we are in training too: reading great books to review, interviewing authors and industry professionals, and keeping up with issues in the union between women and sports*.

Good training often requires coaching and we'd love your coaching now.

  • What books would you like us to review?
  • What authors or athletes would you like to know more about?
  • What questions about publishing we could answer? 
  • If you are an author, let us know. Take a look at our review policy. We'd love to be a part of your blog tour. 
  • We also love guest bloggers and would love your sporty girl book pitch for a relevant article. 

If you read Sporty Girl Books, please follow us to get our posts delivered to your email, friend us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter. We always appreciate your comments and hope that you'll comment as our coaches today and everyday.


*In fact, right now the US Women's National Soccer Team have filed a wage-discrimination action against the U.S. Soccer Federation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. More as it becomes available.