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.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Mamie on the Mound = My SportyGirl Pick for Multicultural Children’s Book Day! #ReadYourWorld

By Brenda Barrera

Last year for Multicultural Children’s Book Day, I reviewed There’s No Base Like Home, a delightful Middle Grade (MG) book by Jessica Mendoza. This year, I was thrilled to be gifted  another baseball book to review: MAMIE ON THE MOUND: A WOMAN IN BASEBALL’S NEGRO LEAGUES by Leah Henderson and illustrated by George Doutsiopoulos.

Mamie “Peanut” Johnson had a fierce, fast pitch and was the first female pitcher (one of three women) to play professional baseball in the Negro League.

As a girl raised in South Carolina and then later in New Jersey, Mamie developed a passion for baseball while playing with her Uncle Leo (also the same age), and unlike many parents of that generation, her parents encouraged their little girl to follow her heart. Despite her physical size, as small black girl (hence, the nickname Peanut), Mamie demonstrated remarkable courage and perseverance. She first joined the all-white, all-boys Police Athletic League and with an improved right arm pitch, led the team to two division championships.  
At age 11, she moved to Washington, DC, where she played on local semipro men’s teams before attempting to try out for the All-American Girls Professional League – only to be rejected because of her race. Imagine the disappointment of not even being allowed on the field with the other girls. Some girls might have given up, but not Mamie.
Fortunately, a former Negro League player gave her a tip about tryouts for a team, the Negro Leagues’ Indianapolis Clowns. She earned a spot on the roster where she honed her fastball, curveball, and screwball playing across the country from Comiskey Park in Chicago to Yankee Stadium in New York.
Mamie beat the odds, pursued her dreams while overcoming diversity and gender discrimination. This is a winning biography about a tiny yet tough trailblazing athlete who defied numerous obstacles to secure her well-earned place in sports history. Readers will be interested to know that that the author, Leah Henderson shared a similar experience – she was one of two girls who played on a competitive “all-boys” soccer team.  

Highly recommend this well-written and beautifully illustrated, non-fiction picture book for younger readers up to grade 5. Also, includes an Afterward and Selected Bibliography. While I was familiar with the Negro League, I did not know about Mamie or the other women who also broke barriers mentioned in this book, Toni Stone and Connie Morgan. This is also an ideal reading pick for the upcoming National Girls and Women in Sports Day coming up on February 5, 2020.

 Multicultural Children’s Book Day is in its 7th year. This non-profit children’s literacy initiative was founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen; two diverse book-loving moms who saw a need to shine the spotlight on all of the multicultural books and authors on the market while also working to get those book into the hands of young readers and educators. Seven years in, MCBD’s mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves continues.
 FREE RESOURCES from Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Friday, October 11, 2019

Celebrate 2019 International Day of the Girl with SERENA: THE LITTLEST SISTER

"We need to uphold the equal rights, voices, and influence of girls in our families, communities, and nations. Girls can be powerful agents of change, and nothing should keep them from participating fully in all areas of life." — UN Secretary-General António Guterres

It's fitting that today as we celebrate the October 11 InternationalDay of the Girl, we feature this engaging book that celebrates Serena Williams, an inspirational and powerful agent of change.

In this picture-book biography, Karlin Gray (author of NADIA: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still) introduces readers to a younger Serena, the littlest Williams sister. She went on to become ranked number one in the world in tennis, hold the most Grand Slam titles, and add four time Olympic gold medalist, UNICEF International Goodwill Ambassador, plus fashion and interior designer to the list of achievements.

Gray addresses the question: How does having a sibling affect athletic interest or performance? Just ask anyone with a sibling who plays a sport and the answer might be, “I didn’t want to be compared to my brother/sister so I joined (fill in the blank) team” or “I was bored watching my sister play from the sidelines so I joined along.” Serena was just four-years-old when she followed her four older sisters Venus, Lyndrea, Isha, and Yetunde onto the public tennis courts in Compton, California. She was part of a team, a family who dedicated themselves to one sport: tennis.

While many may be familiar with the sisterly, competitive bond of Serena and Venus, Gray shares the different interests of all the sisters and how each influenced their little sister on and off the court. I highly recommend this sporty girl book, SERENA: THE LITTLEST SISTER, that is beautifully illustrated by Monica Ahanonu, an artist who “loves creating art that features bright colors and strong black women.”

The back matter includes a follow-up to what each sister is currently doing with quotes from each and a bibliography (books, periodicals, film/TV, and Websites).

Monday, August 26, 2019

My Book Pick for Women’s Equality Day is Mara Rockliff’s Billie Jean!

By Brenda Barrera

August 26th marks Women’s Equality Day in the United States, when we celebrate the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, giving white women the right to vote. (Note: it took many more years before women of color were guaranteed that same right). This is an ideal day to celebrate the newly released picture book biography BILLIE JEAN! HOW TENNIS STAR BILLIE JEAN CHANGED WOMEN'S SPORTS by Mara Rockliff and beautifully illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley that introduces young readers to this iconic tennis player.

Rockliff, author of several historical books for children, offers a glimpse into Billie Jean’s life from childhood, through her rise in the tennis ranks and winning numerous major championships, to her historic televised “Battle of the Sexes” match with Bobby Riggs and forming an all-women’s tennis tour. A common theme throughout? Not accepting “no” for an answer when it came to playing the sport she loved or fighting for women’s rights and equal pay. Readers trying to break the habit of cursing might take a cue from Billie Jean. When she was miffed or missed a drop shot, she would call out “peanut butter!” It’s noteworthy that Rockliff highlights the value of training hard to win over the emphasis of looking pretty in addition to unbalanced media coverage with different questions directed to male competitors compared to athletes like Billie Jean. Both still occur.

The back matter includes an Author’s Note with specific statistics (she won 39 Grand Slam Championships); dates (1973 was the year the US Open Tennis Championship offered men and women equal prize money); and personal information (she and Olympic swimmer Donna De Varona founded the Women’s Sports Foundation and she also came out as gay in the 1980s).

This delightful, important picture book is a reminder that ensuring equality does not happen overnight, but thanks to leadership from athlete/activists like Billie Jean King, much progress has been made. It’s also a timely book choice to tie into the US Open Tennis Championship which occurs every August/September.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Multicultural Children’s Book Day: THERE’S NO BASE LIKE HOME

By Brenda Barrera
Typically, I review Picture Books or Adult Nonfiction/Sports titles and have not reviewed Middle Grade (MG) books but when I saw the opportunity to participate in this year’s Multicultural Children’s Book Day #ReadYourWorld, I jumped over to my keyboard and sent off a reply, “Yes! I’d love to be included and help promote books that celebrate diversity!”

I scanned the book choices, and immediately recognized co-author Jessica Mendoza’s name for THERE’S NO BASE LIKE HOME (Tu Books an imprint of Lee & Low Books). Not only is Mendoza a two-time Olympian (2004, 2008) but she’s a trailblazer in another sports profession—in 2016 she made history when ESPN named her a TV analyst for Major League Baseball. Her sister and co-author, Alana Mendoza Dusan, understands the sport pretty well, too, she played DI baseball at Oregon State University.

This delightful story follows 12-year-old Sophia Garcia throughout the school year as she navigates the move from elementary to middle school. It hits all the bases of what it’s like to go through these changes plus it accurately portrays sibling dynamics of what it's like to follow in the steps of her older sister Ellie, a talented softball pitcher. Sophia is crushed when she doesn’t make the cut for her sister’s former team, the Waves, but rebounds when she's asked to join a start-up team called the Quakes. It’s noteworthy that the Quakes have a positive role model and insightful female coach, CJ.

Certain to be a hit for readers interested in sports, softball, or Hispanic athletes and scores high in depicting real life insecurities of forging new friendships while maintaining old ones, and daily life experiences of growing up in a working-class family. This captures the beauty of “La Familia” celebrating life's accomplishments with a dynamic extended family and sharing traditions like making tamales. Hmmm, that bought back memories from my childhood and making tamales with my abuela!

Readers familiar with the Ellie McDoodle Diaries Series will recognize the work of the talented award-winning author/illustrator RuthMcNally Barshaw that liven the text and capture the emotion and the spirit of Sophia, her family, and teammates. (I have to give Ruth a shout out since we are both MSU alumnae – Go Green!)

THERE’S NO BASE LIKE HOME has a whole lotta heart and humor. It celebrates teamwork, friendship, family, and through Sophia’s firsthand account shows how participating in sports can build self-confidence and facilitate valuable life lessons. Highly recommend! Also, this is an ideal reading pick for the upcoming National Girls and Women in Sports Day to be held on February 6, 2019!

About Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2019 
Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2019 (1/25/19) is in its 6th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators. 

MCBD 2019 is honored to have the following Medallion Sponsors on board

Medallion Level Sponsors

Honorary: Children’s Book Council, The Junior Library Guild, TheConsciousKid.org.

Super Platinum: Make A Way Media

GOLD: Bharat Babies, Candlewick Press, Chickasaw Press, Juan Guerra and The Little Doctor / El doctorcito, KidLitTV,  Lerner Publishing Group, Plum Street Press,

SILVER: Capstone Publishing, Carole P. Roman, Author Charlotte Riggle, Huda Essa, The Pack-n-Go Girls,

BRONZE: Charlesbridge Publishing, Judy Dodge Cummings, Author Gwen Jackson, Kitaab World, Language Lizard – Bilingual & Multicultural Resources in 50+ Languages, Lee & Low Books, Miranda Paul and Baptiste Paul, Redfin, Author Gayle H. Swift,  T.A. Debonis-Monkey King’s Daughter, TimTimTom Books, Lin Thomas, Sleeping Bear Press/Dow Phumiruk, Vivian Kirkfield,

MCBD 2019 is honored to have the following Author Sponsors on board

Honorary: Julie Flett, Mehrdokht Amini,

Author Janet Balletta, Author Kathleen Burkinshaw, Author Josh Funk, Chitra Soundar, One Globe Kids – Friendship Stories, Sociosights Press and Almost a Minyan, Karen Leggett, Author Eugenia Chu, CultureGroove Books, Phelicia Lang and Me On The Page, L.L. Walters, Author Sarah Stevenson, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, Hayley Barrett, Sonia Panigrah, Author Carolyn Wilhelm, Alva Sachs and Dancing Dreidels, Author Susan Bernardo, Milind Makwana and A Day in the Life of a Hindu Kid, Tara Williams, Veronica Appleton, Author Crystal Bowe, Dr. Claudia May, Author/Illustrator Aram Kim, Author Sandra L. Richards, Erin Dealey, Author Sanya Whittaker Gragg, Author Elsa Takaoka, Evelyn Sanchez-Toledo, Anita Badhwar, Author Sylvia Liu, Feyi Fay Adventures, Author Ann Morris, Author Jacqueline Jules, CeCe & Roxy Books, Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace, LEUYEN PHAM, Padma Venkatraman, Patricia Newman and Lightswitch Learning, Shoumi Sen, Valerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, Traci Sorell, Shereen Rahming, Blythe Stanfel, Christina Matula, Julie Rubini, Paula Chase, Erin Twamley, Afsaneh Moradian, Lori DeMonia, Claudia Schwam, Terri Birnbaum/ RealGirls Revolution, Soulful Sydney, Queen Girls Publications, LLC

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.
Co-Hosts and Global Co-Hosts

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Make A Way Media: MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual @McChildsBookDay Twitter Party will be held 1/25/19 at 9:00pm.E.S.T. TONS of prizes and book bundles will be given away during the party. GO HERE for more details.

We will be giving away Book Bundles every 5 minutes!

Twitter Party Details:

When: Friday, January 25th
Time: 9 pm to 10 pm EST
Hashtag: #ReadYourWorld
Sponsored By: Make A Way Media
Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta
Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teacher-classroom-empathy-kit/
Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018


Have you checked everything off your holiday shopping list yet? I’ve got two sporty girl books to recommend that are sure to make a lasting impression and a smile on any recipients face.

As a book reviewer and writer, I peruse a lot of industry news and this past fall saw a reference to new author, Christina Uss. A biographical detail caught my eye: she lives in East Longmeadow, MA. That right by where my sister is a high school teacher. Then I noticed the title of her debut Middle Grade book: THE ADVENTURES OF A GIRL CALLED BICYCLE whereupon I promptly logged onto my local library catalog to see if 1) they had it and 2) it was available. I love riding my bike whether it's for fun or in a time trial or triathlon. Typically, my posts here focus on picture books so reading this book was a pleasant change. Who names their kid Bicycle, right? This is a story about an abandoned little girl who mysteriously shows up on the steps of the Nearly Silent Monastery and does not speak. Her first word to Sister Wanda (the head nun who is not silent) is “bicycle” because there’s a picture of one on her little t-shirt – hence, it becomes her name. When Bicycle is 12 she ditches a camp where she’s supposed to make friends with kids her own age on her bike (named Clunk) and embarks on a coast-to-coast adventure from Washington, DC to San Francisco, CA to meet her cycling hero, Zbigniew Sienkiewicz. Along the route she meets a wide-range of memorable characters (loveable and some shady), including a Civil War ghost. Uss draws from her own cross-country bicycle experiences and does a marvelous job weaving historical facts with the variety of characters and landmarks she encounters along the way.

Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky became friends when they ran cross-country and track for the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. After their collegiate years, Flanagan went on to become a Four-time Olympian, winner of the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon, and World Cross Country bronze medalist and Kopecky worked for Nike Running before directing her energy to her love of cooking, becoming a chef and nutrition coach. The Tarheel teammates have remained steadfast friends throughout the years and bonded through their passion for running and healthy eating. This is their follow-up to their first venture, the New York Times bestselling RUN FAST. EAST SLOW and like the title states the recipes in RUN FAST. COOK FAST. EAT SLOW are “a quick-fix for hangry athletes.” Not only are these authors ideal athletic role models but they share an important message for all athletes: eating healthy is good for optimal athletic performances, long-term health, and happiness. In addition to easy recipes, this includes training tips, bold colorful pictures, sample meal plans, and it lays flat so I didn’t need to put my stapler on the page to hold it down when following a recipe. 

This past November I tuned in to ESPN2 to watch Shalane run the 2018 TCS New York Marathon where she finished on the podium in third place (2:26:22), all while enjoying a hot bowl of Chicken Cannellini soup – a recipe from this book!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Interview with Out of Left Field author Ellen Klages

After getting a chance to read Out of Left Field, I was very excited to interview the author, Ellen Klages. Ellen Klages is the author of three novels about the Gordon family: The Green Glass Sea, which won the Scott O’Dell and New Mexico Book Awards; White Sands, Red Menace, which won the California and New Mexico Book Award; and Out of Left Field, published in 2018. Previously,  she was a staff writer at the Exploratorium museum, where she coauthored three books of hands-on science experiments for children and their families to do together: The Science Explorer; The Science Explorer Out and About; and The Brain Explorer. She also writes award-winning science fiction and fantasy for adult readers. She lives in a small house in San Francisco full of odd and interesting objects. Visit her website at www.ellenklages.com.

Out of Left Field is part of a larger family saga. Why did you decide to take the series in this

In the beginning of my first book, The Green Glass Sea, Dewey and Suze are ten years old. By the end of the sequel, White Sands, Red Menace, they're fifteen. They’re young adults. But . . . at the end of the second book, in 1947, their mother, Terry Gordon, is pregnant. That gave me the opportunity to jump ahead a decade, to 1957, and continue the family story with a brand-new focus—a sporty, spunky ten-year-old pitcher named Katy. 

I really loved the girls' baseball focus in Out of Left Field. What made you want to tell this story? Were you a baseball player when you were a kid?

I wasn't. I was definitely an active kid—riding my bike, climbing trees, swimming in the creek—but except for playground activities and summer camp games, I wasn't really interested in organized team sports. I became a baseball fan in my mid-30s, listening to the Giants and the As on the radio.

But when I worked for the Exploratorium museum, I was part of a team creating a website—The Science of Baseball. (http://www.exploratorium.edu/baseball/). I don't have a science background, so I instead I proposed a page about women baseball players. I had stumbled across Toni Stone, and figured there might have been others. I love research, and ended up with a lot more content than I could cram into one web article. I made a folder for my notes, then filed them away until I could figure out what I should do with them next.

Fast forward twenty years, and two novels about the Gordon family. Dewey was into engineering and science, Suze was an artist. I wanted their younger sister to be just as captivated by something completely different. What do most people think is the opposite of science or art? Sports. Oooh—what if Katy played baseball? I dug out my old files, and got fascinated all over again by the forgotten history of these amazing women.

In the book you have Katy research famous female baseball players. How did you decide which players to include?

That was one of the trickiest parts of writing this book. I could only use information that would have been available to a bright ten-year-old in 1957.

Nowadays, lot of people know about the AAGPBL, because of the movie, A League of Their Own,but it didn't come out until 1992. And most of the Exploratorium research I'd done on women baseball players was based on books that were also published in the 1980s and '90s. I’d relied on the references that writers Barbara Gregorich, Debra Shattuck, Susan Johnson, and Gai Berlage and others included. They had done years of research, digging through archives and primary sources.

The trouble was that, back in 1957, there weren’t anybooks about women in baseball, and it wouldn't have been realistic for a fifth grader to be able to have access to those primary sources or archives. How was I going to give Katy even an inkling that her heroes wereout there?

I spent four long afternoons in the downtown San Francisco library, looking through the Readers Guide to Periodical Literature, volume by volume, hoping to find a reference that Katy coulddiscover. I almost whooped out loud when I found the 1931 article about Jackie Mitchell. 

With the Encyclopedia of Women and Baseball open in front of me, I started making lists of women that I could include in Out of Left Field. Women have been playing professional baseball for more than 140 years, and I wanted the book to show as wide a range as possible. 

Eventually I chose a dozen players, from the 1890s through the mid-1950s. I picked some who were contemporary enough that Katy would have heard of them, like Babe Didrikson, and others because they gave me the opportunity to connect different eras -- the AAGPBL, the Bloomer Girls, the Negro Leagues. I was delighted when I found out that one of the players in the AAGPBL came from the same hometown as Alta Weiss. And that Toni Stone lived only a mile or two from Katy's house.

In a lot of ways, Katy's journey is as much about research as it is about playing baseball. She’s solving a mystery, tracking down clues and following leads and her own curiosity, getting excited when she uncovers a hidden piece of history.

As for my own research? That didn’t have the same constraints as Katy’s, and I’d found so much more I wanted to share. In the back of the book are twelve detailed player biographies, my non-fictional gift to all the curious girls of 2018.

Tell us about your journey. How did you get your first book published?

My journey is not at all typical. I didn't start writing professionally until I was in my mid-40s. I sold my first story, “Time Gypsy,” and it was nominated for several awards in the science fiction and fantasy field. I followed that with a handful of other short stories, some of which I read aloud at conventions and conferences.

After one of those readings, a tall, red-haired woman came up to me and told me she enjoyed my work. “You write children's stories,” she said. I got a little indignant. “I do not,” I replied. “I write stories with children in them.” She shrugged, and told me that she was the editor of a line of children's books, and that if I ever wrote a novel, I should get in touch. She gave me her card. Her name was Sharyn November, and she worked for Viking, in New York.

I went back home, and thought, “An editor in New York just asked me for a book. I shouldn't ignore that.” So I lay awake, trying to think of a topic for a children's book: Puppies? Little cottage in the woods? Elves? None of those interested me in the least. Then late one night, I thought of a short story I'd written, “The Green Glass Sea.” It was about two girls having a picnic with their family on the atomic test site at Trinity, New Mexico.

I sent the story to Sharyn.

To my great surprise, she wrote back. “That would be—different,” she said. “Let me see 90 pages and an outline, and we'll talk.”

It took me more than a year to write those 90 pages, and to figure out what the novel would be about. Since I already had a career as a science fiction short story writer, I'd planned to have the book be SF, and the outline ended in July of 1947, in Roswell, New Mexico, with the landing of an alien spacecraft.

Sharyn liked the 90 pages, and most of the outline, but not the ending. She asked me to reconsider. Hmmm. The book hadbecome much more historical fiction than SF. I agreed.

The result was my first novel, The Green Glass Sea, which was published in 2006. In January of 2007, I answered my phone and was stunned to find out that my book had won the Scott O'Dell Award, given to the best historical fiction for children each year. 

As I said, my journey is not at all typical.

Do you have any advice for someone writing a sporty girl book?

Write with the truest voice that you can. Write for your “inner sporty girl,” the book you would have lovedto read when you were a kid, but which didn't exist yet. Somewhere in the world there is a young girl just waiting for thatbook to inspire her to be the hero of her own story.

If you know a sporty girl, talk to her. Find out what sheloves about playing.

Sporty girls are active. They are brave and strong. They have skills and determination and focus. They think a couple of steps ahead. They don't give up easily. And no two are alike.

Is there anything else about you or your books you would like to tell us?

I hope you enjoy Out of Left Field, and that Katy's journey inspires you to follow your own dreams.

If you want to read more about the Gordon family, you'll find their stories in my first two books, The Green Glass Seaand White Sands, Red Menace.

As I mentioned, I also write science fiction and fantasy for adults. I have two collections of stories, Portable Childhoods and Wicked Wonders. Many of those stories feature sporty girl characters.