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, March 8, 2024

Book Review for #InternationalWomensDay : THE GIRL WHO FIGURED IT OUT

By Brenda Barrera
Hot off the press and just in time to celebrate International Women's Day (March 8) is a book I’ve been eagerly waiting for: THE GIRL WHO FIGURED IT OUT by Minda Dentler and illustrated by Stephanie Dehennin (Sourcebooks, 2024). I did my first triathlon in 1986 and still compete in short distances, so I’ve witnessed the sport’s growth and, just as important, expanding the field to include and support athletes like Minda Dentler.

Born in India, Minda contracted polio (a life-threatening virus), which caused paralysis, and the doctor said she would never be able to walk. Wanting a better life for her daughter, Minda’s birth mother put her up for adoption, and the Dentlers from Spokane, Washington, welcomed her into their loving family.

Minda shares the frustrations of growing up with leg braces and not fitting in due to physical challenges. One specific line in the book that made me stop and re-read was this one: “Some adults talked over me because they could only see my disability.” An eye-opening lesson for adults. Her parents remind her that she can do what she wants, and her dad’s words reinforce the positive message: “You can do it, Minda. Just figure it out.” As an adult, she moves to New York where she joins a running group for people with disabilities and participates on a handcycle. After learning how to swim “one stroke at a time,” she competes in the triathlons.

THE GIRL WHO FIGURED IT OUT is an inspirational sporty girl story about adoption, inclusion, perseverance, and reaching goals. Minda Dentler is an athlete who becomes stronger, smarter, and more confident with each obstacle she overcomes and also cements her mark in sports history as the first female wheelchair athlete to complete one of the world’s most challenging endurance events The Ironman World Championship: 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile cycle, and 26.2-mile run!

Dehennin’s illustrations are stunning with a pallet of rich, vibrant colors, and the back matter supplements the text with informative boxes: What is polio, What is an Ironman World Championship, and description of adaptive equipment: handcycle and racing wheelchair.

Sunday, February 4, 2024


My book pick for this year’s February 7, 2024, celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) is WIBBLE WOBBLE BOOM! by Mary Ann Rodman and illustrated by Holly Sterling (Peachtree Publishing). This follows Claire’s first day at ice-skating class. Like most fans of the sport, you can watch from the comfort of your couch and it may seem effortless—until you lace up a pair of ice skates with a single edged-blade and try to navigate gracefully across a slippery and cold ice rink. Claire’s enthusiasm is stifled by having brown (not white) ice skates and being intimidated by a boy who’s a hockey player. Fortunately, Miss Nicole (the instructor) kept the lesson light and encouragement positive. By the end of the book, Claire made a new friend and skates across the rink with confidence.

WIBBLE WOBBLE BOOM! Is an empowering sporty picture book featuring a young black girl who may not do sit spins or master a figure-eight on the first day but is on her way to enjoying a new sport and learning new skills. An encouraging story with delightful, expressive illustrations that reflect diversity among the children.

Photo: Back in the 1980s I took my friend from Kentucky ice-skating for her first time at an indoor rink in Chicago — check out our brown ice skates!

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Book Review for #InternationalWomensDay : RENA GLICKMAN, QUEEN OF JUDO

What better way to celebrate International Women's Day on March 8th than to amplify a notable woman . . . so my #sportygirlbooks pick for today is RENA GLICKMAN, QUEEN OF JUDO by Eve Nadel Catarevas and illustrated by Martina Peluso (Kar-Ben Publishing, 2022).

While some sports fans might not immediately recognize the name Rena Glickman (1935-2009), this might help -- her full name is Rena “Rusty” Glickman Kanokogi, and she can be described as the mother of women's judo and a sports pioneer who has inspired many girls and women around the world.

This significant picture book biography tells the story of Rusty, a Jewish-American, from her early childhood in New York, including how she earned her nickname “Rusty.” From a young age, she wanted to be like her brother, Charly, so she lifted weights and did push-ups just like him. In the 1950s, people chastised her for being “unladylike,” and she found herself getting into fights with other girls, so she “was always trying to improve her self-defense skills.”

Luckily for her and many young women of that era, the YMCA provided an outlet for physical activity, and she learned they offered judo classes. However, to her dismay, she learned that only men were allowed in the judo class. This is where persistence comes into play as she talked her way into the class, and when it came time to enter her first competition in 1959, she had to disguise herself as a man in order to compete. (Can you think of any other female athletes who had to do something similar in order to participate in a sport? I immediately thought about Kathrine Switzer who signed up to run the Boston Marathon as K.V. Switzer in 1967 since women were not allowed to participate and since she didn't use her first name the officials did not know she was a woman.)

There are many “firsts” associated with Rusty Kanokogi — the first girl to participate in her YMCAs judo program — first woman to train at the world-famous Kodokan in Japan — first woman to become a seventh-degree black belt in judo — and the first coach for the U.S. Olympic Women’s Judo Team in 1988.

The Queen of Judo tells the story of a remarkable woman who found her passion for sports as a young girl and it has a resonating message: believe in your abilities and never give up on your dreams. A bonus is the Author’s Note which includes more information and photographs of Rusty Kanokogi.

For more information about Rena “Rusty” Glickman Kanokogi

Wednesday, February 1, 2023


It’s February 1, 2023 and time to celebrate National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) and, if you want to give a girl a book (today or any day), I highly recommend this empowering sporty, adventure picture book: IF YOU GIVE A GIRL A BIKE by Hayley Diep and illustrated by Braden Hallett.

Not only does the main character and her two girlfriends like to bike, but in the spirit of “if you see it, you can be it,” she falls in love with one sport and, subsequently several other sports throughout the story. When she spots a skateboarder cruising down the sidewalk, she has to try that sport; when she watches someone rock climbing on TV, she tries that sport; after a car drives by with a surfboard on the roof, she immediately hits the water to surf, surf, surf; and before the sun sinks into the horizon, she wants to go back out on her bike. Doesn’t that sound like a perfect day?

This delightful sporty girl picture book is a fun read-aloud that includes repetition and accurate lingo for each sport. When she takes a tumble or wipes out, she is not afraid of a few “scrapes or bruises” and gets right back up to continue her adventure — a powerful lesson.

Diep, a teacher and cyclist, wrote an article for LIV Cycling (a cycling brand dedicated to girls and women) about the book that includes how-to tips on encouraging more girls to fall in love with bicycling. One of my favorite lines from the article is, “After all, biking builds grit, resilience, and confidence, and we want our girls to have these traits!”

Monday, January 23, 2023

Book Review: DAZZLING TRAVIS #ReadYourWorld

By Brenda Barrera
I was gifted a copy of DAZZLING TRAVIS by Hannah Carmona, illustrated by Brenda Figueroa, and published by Cardinal Rule for Multicultural Children's Book Day #ReadYourWorld Day.

Each year I have reviewed a book for MCBD, I request a title that combines girls and sports. At first glance, I paused, “Hmmm . . . I’m not sure this is the correct match.” But l was curious, so I turned to the first page and had my aha moment.

Travis is a delightful, confident little boy with a wide range of interests that vary from playing dress-up in “colorful denim and glitter galore” who takes ballet classes and likes to play basketball. He is also self-confident and can stand up to playground bullies. One of the bullies (a girl) grabs his doll and exclaims, “Boys CAN’T play with that!” But Travis firmly replies, “I am who I am!” He also tells them a boy can like pink just as a girl can like blue.

In many ways, this book is not only about children who feel they are different but an opportunity to open up a dialog about acceptance, bullying, and peer pressure. Sporty girl readers are sure to find relatable situations – they may be the only girl on their sports team or get teased about playing a particular sport. The author includes age-appropriate topics and questions to engage readers like, “What do you think it would be like if we were all the same?”

The back matter profiles a few people who persevered and were dazzling in their own ways, like Elizabeth Stride, also known as Lizzie Arlington. Born in 1877, she was the first American woman to sign a baseball contract. She pitched for a professional men’s team in the late 19th century and played on all-female teams.

I enjoyed this rhyming picture book, and the colored illustrations reflect diverse children. If you are looking for a book (recommended for readers aged 4-10, but I think it will appeal to younger readers) that celebrates differences and being confident, this is a good pick.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2023 is in its 10th 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 books into the hands of young readers and educators. Ten 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. For more information CLICK HERE.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Meet These Asian Pacific American Female Athletes who are CHANGING THE GAME #ReadYourWorld


Get to know Amy, Anona, Catherine, Chloe, EJ, Evelyn, Julie, Kristi, Liane, Megan, Michelle (2), Miki, Mohini, Naomi, Natasha, and Victoria

I was gifted a copy of Mia Wenjen’s CHANGING THE GAME: ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN FEMALE ATHLETES, a Middle Grade (MG) book for Multicultural Children's Book Day #ReadYourWorld Day. I’m always excited to read and learn about talented and trailblazing female athletes!

I recognized several of the women profiled, like New York City Marathon and Boston Marathon champion Miki Gorman [Japanese American], who ruled the roads in the late 1970s. I did not know she moved to the U.S. at age 28 with only $10 in her pocket! Another was two-time Olympic Gold medalist Chloe Kim [Korean American], who dominated the halfpipe and slopestyle competition to take Olympic gold medals in 2016. Heads up: Chloe will be competing in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

There were some athletes who I admit that I was not familiar with like EJ Lee Smith [Korean American], a college point guard phenom whose father didn’t know she played basketball until he saw her on TV and Anona Napoleon [Native Hawaiian] who was surfing the big waves back in the 1950s and dominated ocean sports. A diving accident left her paralyzed at age 19, but she made a full recovery and was atop the podium, winning the 1961 Mākaha Surfing Competition.

Each entry opens with a relatable question to engage the reader, such as, “Would you join a boys’ team as the only girl?” Four-time Olympic medalist Julie Chu [Chinese/Puerto Rican American] joined a boys’ ice hockey team because girls had no leagues. I remember watching on TV and cheering gymnast Amy Chow [Chinese American] at the 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympic Games but was surprised to learn she was also a pole vaulter and diver in high school and continued as a student-athlete diving for Stanford University.

CHANGING THE GAME is a slim, MG paperback that includes photos, pull-out quotes, athletic accomplishments, interesting anecdotes, and a list of URLs to learn more about the athletes at the end. Highly recommend this sports book that will surely inspire readers and an important contribution to collections that reflect the diversity in our sports world. Plus, an ideal pick to tie into the upcoming National Girls and Women in Sports Day on February 2, 2022, and Beijing Olympic Games February 4-20, 2022.

CHANGING THE GAME features these sports:  Basketball - Diving - Golf - Gymnastics - Ice Hockey - Ice Skating - Kayaking - Marathon Running - Mixed Martial Arts - Snowboarding - Soccer - Surfing - Swimming - Tennis - Volleyball

FREE RESOURCES from Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Diversity Book Lists & Activities for Teachers and Parents

Homeschool Diverse Kidlit Booklist & Activity Kit

FREE Teacher Classroom Activism and Activists Kit

FREE Teacher Classroom Empathy Kit

FREE Teacher Classroom Kindness Kit

FREE Teacher Classroom Physical and Developmental Challenges Kit

FREE Teacher Classroom Poverty Kit

FREE Homeschool Diverse Kidlit Booklist & Activity Kit

FREE Teacher Classroom Raising Awareness on Systemic Racism in America Classroom Kit

Gallery of Our Free Posters

FREE Diversity Book for Classrooms Program

Saturday, July 31, 2021

#WomenInBaseballWeek Interview with Rajani LaRocca and Much Ado About Baseball

Today is the final day of this year's Women in Baseball Week. What better way to end the week than with an interview with one of my favorite authors, Rajani LaRocca, whose book, Much Ado About Baseball, was released in June!

Rajani was born in India, raised in Kentucky, and now lives in the Boston area, where she practices medicine and writes award-winning novels and picture books, including Midsummer’s Mayhem (2019), Seven Golden Rings (2020), Red, White, and Whole (2021), Bracelets for Bina’s Brothers (2021), Much Ado About Baseball (2021), and more. She’s always been an omnivorous reader, and now she is an omnivorous writer of fiction and nonfiction, novels and picture books, prose and poetry. She finds inspiration in her family, her childhood, the natural world, math, science, and just about everywhere she looks. 

Welcome to the Sporty Girl Book Blog, Rajani. We're so glad you could join us. Your main character plays baseball. Why baseball? Were you a baseball player growing up?

I didn't play baseball growing up, but my son played T-ball through high school ball, so I've been around a lot of baseball. I never appreciated the beauty of the game until I met my husband in college, and because of him, I grew to appreciate the pitcher vs. catcher duels, the sometimes leisurely pace, and the exciting plays on the bases.
Much Ado About Baseball combines baseball and Shakespeare. How did you come up with this idea?
I wanted to present the "other side" of the magical competition introduced in Midsummer's Mayhem, so I knew this story would involve Shakespeare and sports and math/science. I love Shakespeare's play, Much Ado About Nothing, which involves two main characters who have so much in common but can't stand each other until they get a little help from their friends. And I've always loved stories involving kids solving puzzles to save the day. So I ended up with a combination of Shakespeare, baseball, and math puzzles!

Tell us more about your main character, Trish.
When twelve-year-old Trish has to move to a new town again, she's worried about fitting in . . . especially as a girl who loves math and plays baseball. At her first summer baseball practice, she recognizes a teammate: Ben, the boy she beat in the spring's Math Puzzler Tournament. He can't stand her, and Trish knows he's going to discover her secret.
Ben hasn't played baseball in two years, and he doesn't want to play now. But once he realizes Trish is on the team, he knows he can't quit. And their team is terrible and can't manage to win a single game.

But then Trish and Ben meet a power-hitting older kid who tells them about his family's snacks that might help their team come together. And then they each find a book of mysterious math puzzles. Once they start solving the puzzles, they begin to form a tenuous friendship, and suddenly their team can't stop winning.

Then they come to a puzzle they can't solve, with disastrous consequences. Can Trish and Ben find a way to work together to find the "ultimate answer," or will they strike out when it counts the most?
What was your publication journey with this book?
This was a challenging book to write. I knew I wanted to write a companion novel to Midsummer's Mayhem, my debut. But it took me a long time to figure out how to write this narrative as dual POV, and to understand what the magical people in the book wanted. I found that writing a synopsis for the whole book really helped me figure out how everything fit together.
Do you have any favorite sporty girl reads? If not, what’s your all-time favorite read?
I love Lupe Wong Won't Dance by Donna Barba Higuera, Karen Day's No Cream Puffs and Jen Petro-Roy's Life in the Balance.

Thank you so much, Rajani! To connect with Rajani and learn more about her and her books visit her at www.RajaniLaRocca.com.