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 29, 2016

The Sweet Spot Blog Tour: Top Ten Reasons For Writing A Sporty Girl Baseball Book

One of the questions I get asked most often is why I chose to write a book about a girl who plays baseball. Why not softball or another more accepted sport or why not skip sports in general? Here's my top ten reasons for writing about a girl who plays baseball.

10 - I love baseball. I'm a huge Mets fan and have been attending games since I was small. I even did my 7th grade kick line tryout routine to "Let's Go Mets Go!"

9 - One of favorite movies growing up was called Blue Skies Again, which is about a girl who, you guessed it, plays baseball. Unfortunately this movie was never turned into a DVD and is not streaming, but trust me, it was great.

8 - There aren't enough books for kids about girls who play baseball. Here's a list of the ones I know: A Whole New Ball Game (April 1993), The Girl Who Struck Out Babe Ruth (Jan 2000), Kit's Home Run (March 2002), Players in Pigtails (Mar 2003), Sliding Into Home (April 2005), She Loved Baseball (Oct. 2010), Catching the Moon (June 2010), The Girl Who Threw Butterflies (Feb. 2010), My Thirteenth Season (March 2010), No Cream Puffs (March 2010), Baseball Girl (Mar 2015), The Kid from Diamond Street (March 2016), The Sweet Spot (March 2016), and The Distance to Home (June 2016)

7 - The Diamond Dreams section of The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown is the only section of underrepresented populations that has not had one person make it into the major league (unless you count the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League of the 1940s and 50s).

6 - Girls are still struggling to get respect as baseball players. They aren't invited into recruiting camps and have to fight to get recognition. Just today there was an opinion piece posted about how women aren't included in America's Past time. The fight is far from over. 

5 - Strides are being made. This summer I posted about a number of sports that saw the addition of women in important positions. In addition, Justine Siegal continued to break barriers by being the first female coach in professional baseball history. 

4 - Women in sports are still getting poor media coverage, even when people want to watch. Here's an article from this summer that illustrates this point. 

3 - There is a growing number of girls playing baseball. 

2 - Kids who aren't sporty, and aren't girls, still enjoy reading about someone going after her dreams.

And finally, my number one reason for writing about a girl who plays baseball:

1 - Baseball is the sport Sam told me she played. The other 9 reasons came after I discovered this detail about my character. The fact that this was not a book that some people would want to publish or that baseball was not a popular sport for girls didn't factor into my decision. It was the story that wanted to be told, so I told it.

The Sweet Spot is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and local indie bookstores. 

Win a copy of The Sweet Spot by joining the Rafflecopter giveaway.

Learn more about The Sweet Spot at Spellbound River Press.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Retro Review: The Running Dream by Wedelin Van Draanen

My sophomore year of high school, (the first year of high school as I had gone to a 7-9 middle school), I joined the rowing team. It was all land work outs all the time. Running, circuits, and rowing machines brought me closer to spring break when we'd first get on the water. The day we were let out for break, I was so excited that I hopped down the last five stairs in school and did something to my leg. Later that afternoon I found out I'd fractured my ankle. I wouldn't row that year at all. It was a palpable sense of loss but not near as great as Jessica's loss in the 2012 Schneider Award Winning book, THE RUNNING DREAM by Wendelin Van Draanen.

A school bus accident leaves sixteen-year old runner, Jessica a below the knee amputee with running little more than a reoccurring dream. But dream she does. Jessica is young and she has the drive of an athlete plus the support of family and friends. She heals quickly and learns to walk to again. Along her journey, her goals shift and change and the obstacles are many--a math teacher who won't give an inch, financial and legal issues, other runners who see her as distraction and a huge lack of self-esteem that is constantly challenged by the pipe she now has for a leg. "It's distrubing how fast weeds take root in my garden of worthiness. They're so hard to pull. And grow back so easily" (312).

The book is structured in five parts: Finish Line, Headwind, Straightaway, Adjusting the Blocks, Starting Line that chronicle Jessica's journey. Van Draanen's love for running is apparent and the reader is drawn in not only by the Jessica's love for the sport but for her loss and longing. The medical aspects of Jessica's amputation, her recovery, and prosthetic appointments are vivid and engaging. The reader feels as if she's in capable and trustworthy hands without having the text read like a medical journal.

After her absence, Jessica is saddled with a huge homework load which introduces the reader to Rosa, a math whiz with Cerebral Palsy who has a wheelchair. Throughout the story, Rosa's more existential and philosophical view of life gets Jessica and the reader thinking. Who is visible and invisible in our world? How can people be convinced to see the person behind the condition or disability? Where are the starting and finish lines in our life and how does one lead to another?

Cerebral Palsy Day is celebrated in the US on March 25th (two days ago) but World CP Day takes place the first Wednesday in October. This year (2016) that's Wednesday, October 5th.

This book was the 2012 Schneider Family Book Award winner which "honors an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences." In addition to being an award-winning author, Wendelin Van Draanen is also the founder of the Exercise the Right to Read program to promote fitness and literacy in schools.

If you haven't read it already, check out THE RUNNING DREAM!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Spring Training for Poetry Month: Sports Poems

“There is only one rule to follow when writing poetry: There are no rules!”
Douglas Florian, author + artist

Springtime. Gotta love it! March 20 is the first day of the vernal equinox, otherwise known as the first day of spring. I’m pleased to report my daffodils are sprouting, already glimpsed my first robin, and ran in shorts ‘n t-shirt last week. April is around the corner and that means it’s almost Poetry Month, a 30-day celebration and opportunity to promote poetry. April is also a big month for my beloved Chicago marking opening day for the Cubs at Wrigley Field (11th) and the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field (8th).

When it comes to sports, poetry has been used to document events but also to inspire sports teams and encourage athletes. In other words, the art form of poetry can be used to motivate and bolster confidence. Trying to find a sports poetry book, I was feeling a little flustered when bam, outta left field I came across the picture book, POEM RUNS by Douglas Florian. An award-winning children’s book author and artist, Florian works across different mediums. Initially, what caught my eye was the baseball instead of the letter “O” in the title and the stunning primary colored illustrations, or rather, in this case, paintings.  I was immediately drawn to the read aloud, rhythm of the fifteen short poems.

Turning the first few pages I silently whispered, please let this collection include images of girls who want to see themselves catching a pop fly or lunging for a line drive. I was not disappointed. I turned to “Our Slugger” and smiled at this verse, “Our slugger can zing / Each pitch you may hurl. / And one other thing: / Our slugger’s a girl.”

The artwork includes boys and girls, plus shows diversity. Since baseball was not (ahem, is not) my best sport I chuckled and could relate to the girl in “Right Fielder” who might be lazy, “But I know how / To pick a daisy.” Toward the end, “Poem Run” about the batter who smashes a hit and races home to write a poem to capture the moment inspired me.  For April, in celebration of Poetry Month, I’ve jotted down a goal for myself: write three new sports poems.

Do you have a favorite sports poem? We'd like to hear from you, please feel free to share in the comments section below.

National Poetry Month - www.poets.org
30 Ways to Celebrate Poetry Month - www.poets.org/national-poetry-month

For Teachers
Poetry Month Activities - www.readwritethink.org
Scholastic: Poetry Writing with Jack Prelutsky - teacher.scholastic.com/writewit/poetry
Favorite Poem Project - www.favoritepoem.org/teachers.html

About Douglas Florian

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Interview with Dawn Green, author of IN THE SWISH

If you missed my Tuesday post and review of my favorite sporty read in over a year, click here. 
Today, Dawn was kind enough to join me on Sporty Girl Books for an interview. She's just that awesome;)
Dawn with best friend Kim at the 2015 Women's World Cup in Vancouver. She still quite the sporty girl today.

1. Could you share which sports you’ve played growing up and which ones you play today?

If it had a ball I played it. I grew up playing volley, fastball, soccer, swimming, basketball (of course), golf, and tennis. Today it is much tougher to find the time to play but I do get time to coach basketball at various levels and with different groups, and I also try to get out and do other active things like running, kayaking, and hiking – I am hoping to try climbing soon. One of the great things that sport gave me was the active mindset, which has stayed with me into adulthood.   

2. It sounds like you do a lot. I hope you get on the rock soon. I am addicted to sport rock climbingCould you share a memorable moment from your own HS basketball career?

I have two very memorable moments but they both happen off the court and in unique ways. The first was when I was 16 and a few members from my junior team went to watch a Canada vs. US women’s basketball exhibition before the 96’ Olympics. A couple of us had been following the US team in the media – it was such a good time for women’s sports – and I was a pretty big fan of the game… anyway, after the game we snuck into the back of the arena and got autographs from Sheryl Swoopes, Rebecca Lobo, and Jennifer Azzi. I’ll never forget the moment when the entire team (from Dawn Staley to coach Tara VanDerveer) walked down the corridor. I don’t get star struck very often, but I was then.   

The second moment comes from my coaching career. A few years ago I was co-coaching a senior girls’ basketball team. It was a team made up of “athletes” (mostly soccer players) but not really any true basketball players. We had no business finishing in the top ten of our province but we did, purely on how well we played as a team. During the final game – a consolation game for 5thor 6th – the clock was winding down, we were down by more than 10, and it was clear that our team was going to lose, but the girls on the bench asked if it was okay if they rushed the court when the buzzer went. I’ve never heard or seen a team rush the court for a loss but it was one of the most amazing acts of sportsmanship I have ever seen. They lost the game but rushing the court was about celebrating the season they had, it was about the team not the game, and it was beautiful.  

3. What memorable experiences. I can totally envision your team rushing the court. And, I like that your first memory gets a cameo in IN THE SWISH! As a coach, what would be your advice to sporty girls trying out for a new season?

TRY! Even if you think you might not make it and other sporty girls intimidate you, try anyway. You never know what sport you might like, or what sport might like you for that matter. You also can never know what you bring to a team. You might not be the fastest or best shooter, but maybe you can out-rebound everyone or you work harder than anyone else. Coaches all want hard workers over those who are talented but lazy or have a bad attitude. Work hard, be the one who runs all the way across the line, dives on the floor for every lose ball, and cheers for her teammates. 

4. Great advice. Do you have a favorite “coach” saying that you share to inspire your team?

One of my personal favorites comes from my grandfather, “The offense can only play as well as the defense lets them.” It’s simple but profoundly true. 

Something else I tell my players is to never focus on the last play, always focus on the next play. It’s too easy to dwell on the missed shot instead of thinking of taking your next shot.

AND of course, DEFENSE isn’t just something, it’s everything.

5. Oh, you coaches always talking about Defense (j/k, mostly). It really is important:) When did you know you wanted to be a writer and how did you get started?

I never knew I wanted to be a writer but I did always know that I wanted to be a storyteller, I just didn’t know how that would manifest itself. I started thinking that I wanted to be a screenwriter and working in film. Screenwriting taught me a lot about character development and how to arc a story (in fact In the Swish started as a screenplay) but I realized that the film world wasn’t really for me. When I got a bit older I had more patience for writing full novels, and now, here we are.

6. Ooh...I'm seeing IN THE SWISH on the big screen. I read a lot of screenwriting books (SAVE THE CAT, anyone? That's a great background for writing novels. Is this your first book? 

In The Swish is my second novel. My first is another YA with a very different subject matter. When Kacey Left came out last year (2015) and is about a girl who is left dealing with her best friends suicide through journal writing. It’s definitely not as uplifting or fun as In the Swish but it does deal with some important themes surrounding teenage life.

7. I can't wait to read that one! What are you working on right now? I’m hoping for a soccer story!

Ha… well, interestingly enough the main character of my next novel does play soccer but it isn’t really a sporty girl book. I would classify it more as New Age or older YA. I’m not willing to share the title yet, but I will say that it’s a story about a pre-dystopian world (not unlike our own) and the events that unfold in order for society to let those dystopian type worlds come into being. Also, what it takes for an average everyday soccer-playing girl to become a revolutionary. 

If In the Swish does well there might be a sequel in my head, and there may just be a soccer story in there too ;)   

8. Okay, not exactly soccer, but it sounds amazing. pre-dystopian, soccer player to revolutionary. I'm in. What’s your favorite sporty read?

I mentioned this at the back of my book but In These Girls, Hope is a Muscle by Madeleine Blais, was a favorite of mine as a teen.  Venus to the Hoop by Sarah Corbett (about the 96’ Olympic team), I kept next to my bedside for a long time before passing it on to another sporty girl. And most recently I really got into Pat Summitt’s latest Sum It Up – because, well, Pat Summitt.

9. Do you have an all-time-favorite book?

I can’t say, the others might find out and then they’d be jealous.

Great answer! I struggle with this one too. I don't want my books smothering me while I sleep;) Thank you for being on Sporty Girl Books!

Dawn let us know a Goodreads Giveaway for 10 US copies is underway, so in addition to the one we're giving away, you have 10 more chances. I've linked to both below.
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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Book Review and Giveaway: IN THE SWISH by Dawn Green

Let me start out by saying this is the best sporty girl book I've read in over a year--and basketball isn't even in my top three favorite sports:)
Thank you to author Dawn Green for providing us with a signed copy to review and give away. I haven't yet read her first book, WHEN KASEY LEFT, but I've not only put it on my TBR pile, I've moved it dangerously close to the top. (It's another YA, but not of the sporty variety.)
IN THE SWISH, published by Red Deer Press, released in Canada January 16th, but except one lucky winner from our raffle, the rest of America has to wait until May 15th. 

From the back of the book:
Bennet Ryan is a superb young basketball player who propelled her team to a regional championship. But in the senior year she discovers there's a lot she doesn't know. She has to switch schools, for one thing, and learn to find in wit the team she helped defeat the previous year. What's more she confronts a far more complex world than she's been used to--a new friend who is on the autism spectrum, as well as teammates from a diversity of cultures. Finally she has to face her old team--and some old assumptions--in a dreamt playoff game. In the Swish is a coming of age story about friendships made and friendships tested set against the fast-paced world of competitive girls' basketball. 

Dawn Green teaches high school and coaches basketball. Both of these facts are readily apparent in reading IN THE SWISH. She knows basketball, athletes, and high school. I felt for our main character Bennett from the very first page. I tried to imagine having to move to my rival team in high school to compete against the girls and the team I loved like family, and I couldn't imagine it. Bennett not only had to do this her extremely important senior year, but also do it with a mom as the new school principal. And yes, she does get sent to the principal's office:) The mother/daughter tension is palpable. They love each other, but can a mother who doesn't understand basketball truly understand Bennett?
I cared about Bennett, about the flack she was getting from her new school, about the distance growing between her and her old teammates, about her need to be in the gym with a ball, and about her only friend Matti. Bennett is tough and serious on the court, but she has a heart. She cares about people. 

IN THE SWISH isn't only a basketball story, it's a sister story, a story of autism, and a story of learning about diversity and culture. Above all, it's a kick a** sporty girl book. I read the entire thing in less that 24 hours. It's fast and real (both to the characters and to the sport). The characters and situations walk off the page. I appreciated that it wasn't one main character and a bunch of supporting similar characters, but that each teammate had their own life and needs and issues. Coach K was one strong woman who knew what the team needed and how to make it happen. She punished Bennett and another player who couldn't figure out how to play together in brilliant Parent Trap-esqe stuck-together fashion that I absolutely loved.

One of the characters that touched me the most and made Bennett's story what it is, is her father. I wish all girls could have a dad like that. Boy, girl, young, old, we can do things. The only thing/person stopping us is ourselves.

I won't ruin the ending, but will note that I whole-heartedly approved. I look forward to many more intense sporty reads (maybe a soccer one, since she mentioned loving that sport as well) in the future.

Just a note that there is some language in this book, so I would keep to that 14-18 recommended range. 

****Dawn Green was kind enough to let me interview her. Come back Thursday to learn some of her favorite sporty moments, her advice to girls trying out for a team, her favorite sporty reads, and more***

Dawn Green graduated from the University of Victoria with degrees in languages and education. She is a high school Spanish and English teacher, basketball coach, and Special Olympics BC volunteer. When Kacey Left was her first young adult novel.

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