Women in Sports | 13 Books To Add to Your Shelves Now

All eyes will be on France next month when the Women’s World Cup opens there on June 7. Start stocking your shelves and getting your book displays on female athletes ready in anticipation of the frenzy that's sure to ensue.

All eyes will be on France next month when the Women’s World Cup opens there on June 7. Start stocking your shelves now and getting your book displays on female athletes ready in anticipation of the frenzy that is sure to ensue. Here's a short list of some recent titles to consider.

CHAFFEE, Kim. Her Fearless Run: Kathrine Switzer’s Historic Boston Marathon. illus. by Ellen Rooney. 40p. bibliog. Page Street. Apr. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781624146541.
Gr 3-5–Chaffee tells the story of Kathrine Switzer, the first registered female runner for the Boston Marathon. This picture book biography begins with her love of running as a child, progresses through her training for the 1967 Boston Marathon to the day of the actual race. Detailed mixed-media illustrations of onlookers showing their disapproval emphasize that Switzer’s passion for running was seen as strange. Readers can practically see the wind rushing through her hair, and the resolve on her face is evident. Students will enjoy reading about this remarkable woman who was determined to prove that women are just as capable as men. VERDICT An empowering story that belongs in all picture book biography sections.–V. Lynn ­Christiansen, Wiley International Studies Magnet ­Elementary School, Raleigh, NC

redstar CLINE-RANSOME, Lesa. Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams. illus. by James E. Ransome. 48p. bibliog. further reading. notes. S. & S. Jul. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481476843.
Gr 3-5–This lovingly crafted picture book biography centers on the incredible bond between Venus and Serena Williams and one of their signature accomplishments: being the first two sisters in tennis history to rank numbers one and two in the world. Beginning with their early childhood, Cline-Ransome highlights the siblings’ hard work and dedication to each other and their goals. From pre-dawn practices as preschoolers in the Compton neighborhood of Los Angeles to Serena’s first victory over Venus in the 2002 French Open nearly 20 years later, this story of their single-minded focus and unwavering family support will inspire readers to achieve greatness regardless of the odds. The collage artwork, done in cut paper, pencil, and acrylic paints, is expansive and filled with vibrant colors and emotions. Fans of tennis will be in for a treat as Cline-Ransome recounts the Williams’s matches with thrilling detail. This powerful narrative will most appeal to independent readers. Back matter includes an afterword that chronicles the duo’s accomplishments and challenges from 2002 to 2011. VERDICT An important selection for biography and sports collections.–Lynn Van Auken, Oak Bluffs School, Oak Bluffs, MA

DELLE DONNE, Elena. My Shot: Balancing It All and Standing Tall. 272p. S. & S. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534412286.
Gr 7 Up–Elena Delle Donne is a six-foot-five WNBA star with a great backstory and tells it with gusto. Born with natural talent, she learned at an early age to accept the fact that she was different. Basketball was a natural fit for the remarkably tall young girl. Always the perfectionist, she drove herself hard, and as a result, she started to suffer from burnout in her teens. She warily accepted a scholarship at the University of Connecticut, but she abruptly left, and in the course of many soul-searching walks in the woods, came down with Lyme disease, with the symptoms intermittingly forcing her to sit out. Yet she made a decision to trust her instincts and listen to her heart. This mindset led her to come back to the sport—this time, very much on her own terms. This upbeat autobiography follows Delle Donne through her many accomplishments. She stresses her personal motto, “Demand Excellence,” that led her to put in the hard work to achieve her goals. Additionally, she offers advice in a direct, accessible manner (“Being an adult is still hard when the going gets tough! Luckily, you can develop skills that will get you through your problems or setbacks.”). VERDICT Sports-minded teens will devour this fast-paced narrative. Recommended for all school libraries.–Denise Kim, Bronx High School of Science, NY

GRAY, Karlin. Serena: The Littlest Sister. illus. by Monica Ahanonu. 40p. bibliog. Page Street. May 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781624146947.
Gr 1-4–Superstar Serena Williams has dominated the world of tennis for so long, her name is synonymous with excellence. The audience for this book will likely already know about her power and style, but might not know her family’s remarkable story. Raised in Compton, CA, Serena was the youngest of five close-knit sisters. Starting out with secondhand equipment on a court they cleaned for practice, the girls were coached by their father to move fast and hit hard. They learned to always put in their best effort, and that their dedication would allow them to achieve their dreams. Venus and Serena put that passion into becoming elite tennis players, first in California, then at a tennis academy in Florida, and finally on the professional circuit. This book splits time between Serena’s career and family, focusing on how her devotion to Venus allowed both to become better athletes who supported each other while being one another’s fiercest competitors. Ahanonu’s digital illustrations morph from a bold palette—all 90s-inspired patterns and sharp angularity reminiscent of Keith Haring—to a more sophisticated and contemporary design filled with soft pastels as the timeline progresses. Each page is alive with movement, joy, and vibrance. In a market saturated with picture book biographies about Serena, the unique artwork is what makes this one notable. VERDICT A fine addition to the growing Williams biography collection.–Abby Bussen, Muskego Public Library, WI

JOKÜLSSON, Illugi. Stars of Women’s Soccer. 2nd ed. 64p. (World Soccer Legends). maps. photos. Abbeville. May 2018. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9780789213051.
Gr 5 Up–This book is bound to stir a debate; there are only so many pages and so many players deserving to be called stars. Out of the 28 players profiled, 10 are from the United States, five are German, four are French, and only one is Brazilian (which is odd considering the widespread popularity of the sport there). There isn’t any justification for how the roster has been compiled, so readers are left to wonder why some stars were chosen and some were left off. Each player has a spread with bright, vivid, action-filled photographs. There is some biographical information provided: height, birthdate, birthplace, current team, number of international games won, and goals scored. Though there is no index, the table of contents sorts the players alphabetically by their last names, so it’s easy to find them. VERDICT Though an appealing introduction, real fans will be looking for more detailed information, making this a secondary purchase.–Debbie Tanner, S.D. Spady Montessori Elementary, Delray Beach, FL

KILLION, Ann. Champions of Women’s Soccer. 272p. index. photos. Philomel. May 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399549014.
Gr 4 Up–Relive the most exciting moments in women’s soccer in this in-depth collective biography of the sport’s biggest stars. After an enthusiastic ode to the sport in the “Pregame” chapter, Killion relays the career highlights of 11 U.S. players for the “First Half.” Providing only minimal information about each player’s personal life and background, the focus is instead on achievements on the field. She goes on to profile 11 international players for the “Second Half.” “Halftime” is dedicated to a history of women playing soccer and the impact the 1972 passing of Title IX had on women’s athletic teams. Remaining sections cover Top 10 lists of the best goals, the best events, the biggest upsets, and the biggest saves. A small section of photographs is appended, and a concluding section profiles the next generation of star players. While this text provides plenty of exciting statistics and blow-by-blow retellings of great moments in soccer history, it is not for the casual sports enthusiast. Killion knows the game and its history and writes for an audience already familiar with and fond of the sport. The focus on women athletes represents a much-needed perspective in sports books for tweens and will be a welcome addition. VERDICT A practical purchase for collections where soccer and sports books are in demand and books about women in sports are lacking.–Kristy Pasquariello, Wellesley Free Library, MA

LLOYD, Carli with Wayne Coffey. All Heart: My Dedication and Determination To Become One of Soccer’s Best. 304p. index. HMH. Dec. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544978690. Gr 5-8–This young readers edition of Lloyd’s adult title, When Nobody Was Watching, details her life as a professional soccer player. Beginning with her childhood experiences on community club teams, Lloyd provides a comprehensive chronicle of her athletic perseverance: using rejection to work harder, coping with disappointment, overcoming obstacles, and relishing the hard-earned professional and personal achievements that come with such dedication. This commitment is evident from Lloyd’s time in college through later years when she pursued Olympic and World Cup glory. With simple sentence structure and a straightforward narrative, this book is appropriately designed for its audience. It predominantly focuses on a play-by-play of the many tryouts, teams, practices, and games of Lloyd’s career, with brief glimpses of the politics behind the game and rare details of her personal life. The prose is replete with soccer terms and jargon, which may make the narrative more difficult for readers less familiar with the sport. Still, the central themes of hard work, diligence, ambition, and tenacity make Lloyd’s story an inspiration for all readers, especially tweens looking for strong role models. VERDICT Purchase where avid soccer fans seek motivational accounts of favorite players.–Paige Rowse, Needham High School, MA

LONG, Jessica with Hannah Long. Unsinkable: From Russian Orphan to Paralympic Swimming World Champion. 112p. photos. HMH. Jun. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781328707253.
Gr 5-8–Long was born with fibular hemimelia in both legs, leading to a double amputation below her knees. This did not deter her from achieving her dream of Paralympic glory. Long was born in Siberia as Tatiana Olegovna Kirillova, and at 13 months was adopted by the Long family. They opted for the surgery that made mobility possible. Through hard work and perseverance, Long has become the second most decorated U.S. Paralympic athlete, winning her first gold medal at 12 years old, the youngest to do so. This memoir is gripping and inspiring but at times lacks cohesion. It starts with her first Paralympic victory as a hook and then jumps to her adoption and surgery, but the main focus is on her Paralympic and competitive swimming career. There are some allusions to other aspects of her life, but in total, this focus is on swimming. There are also a lot of engaging photos, all clearly captioned. However, at times people appear in photos before being mentioned in the text. Still, the narrative is easy to follow and completely age appropriate in style and format. The design is well organized with several sidebars that provide tips and facts to flesh out the details of Long’s life. Her writing style is very engaging, lively, and conversational. VERDICT A general purchase for libraries with middle grade memoir fans.–Kristyn Dorfman, The Packer Collegiate Institute, Brooklyn 

redstar MUHAMMAD, Ibtihaj. Proud: Living My American Dream. 240p. glossary. Little, Brown. Jul. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316477000.
Gr 6 Up–Fencer and Olympic medalist Muhammad pens an eminently readable account of her childhood through her win at the 2016 Rio Olympics in this must-have memoir. Opening with an all-too-familiar scene, she recalls how a substitute teacher refused to properly pronounce her name, an episode that the Olympian uses to elucidate her motivations behind writing this text: “I wanted to chronicle my quest to challenge society’s limited perceptions of what a Muslim woman, a black woman, or an athlete can be.” In this regard and many others, Muhammad excels. Her steadfast trust in herself and the guidance of her family and her faith shine throughout. Muhammad’s retelling of her early home life, her qualification for the 2016 Olympics, and of blessings big and small are passages filled with love and awe. The writing is concise, and the replays of Muhammad’s matches are riveting. Teen athletes, especially those playing in sports perceived as white, will relate to and value Muhammad’s keen perspective on manipulative coaches, college and scholarship applications, racist and Islamophobic abuse from teammates, and the challenge of balancing practice, classwork, and personal academic interests. An epilogue discusses her role in creating the nonprofit, Athletes for Impact, and underlines the importance of defining one’s identity for oneself and embracing one’s dreams. VERDICT A first purchase for YA nonfiction collections.–Della Farrell, School Library Journal

PIMENTEL, Annette Bay. Girl Running. illus. by Micha Archer. 32p. bibliog. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. Feb. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781101996683.
Gr 2-4–Bobbi Gibb found joy in running before it was an activity women were encouraged or even allowed to participate in. Faced with enormous obstacles (including having available running gear), Gibb went on to become the first woman to complete the Boston Marathon, blazing the trail for thousands of women to come. The story does justice to Gibb’s dream, although additional contextual details may have helped foster a richer understanding. For example, there is no mention of the year during which the story takes place (1966) until the book’s afterword. Gibb’s age is also unclear. On the very first page she is an adolescent, but the work soon transitions into her running across the country and entering the Boston Marathon as an adult without clear indication that many years have passed. The lush collage-style illustrations are a highlight, specifically the clever mile marker and elevation indicators which stretch across the pages as Gibb runs the race. The closing image nicely incorporates the names of other female marathoners as a tribute. VERDICT An inspiring addition to picture book biography collections.–Alyssa Annico, Youngstown State University, OH

RAISMAN, Aly. Fierce: How Competing for Myself Changed Everything. 358p. photos. websites. Little, Brown. Nov. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316472708.
Gr 7 Up–In this lively and straightforward biography, gymnastics champion Raisman chronicles the path of dedication and determination she traversed during childhood and young adulthood to fulfill a dream of starring in the Olympics—not just once but twice. Detailed descriptions of training and competitions capture readers’ attention through well-paced narratives balanced by pertinent, smartly added dialogue and a selection of full-color photos. The disturbing experiences of sexual abuse by sports medicine doctor Larry Nassar, recently sentenced for child pornography and for molesting a large number of adolescent female gymnasts, including Raisman, are shared. Her honest account is effectively woven in without being graphic, and she makes a strong point about courageously speaking up when necessary (a hotline phone number and web address are given). Although her route was taxing, uplifting, exhilarating, frustrating, disappointing, and downright painful at various times, Raisman stayed the course and in the process succeeded and learned a great deal about herself as an individual and as a team player. The book concludes with a sensible “fierce guide to life” list. VERDICT Raisman’s inspiring and enlightening story belongs in every teen biography collection and will be especially appealing to readers with an affinity for gymnastics.–Diane P. Tuccillo, Poudre River Public Library District, CO

WOMEN ATHLETES WHO RULE!: The 101 Stars Every Fan Needs to Know. 128p. index. photos. Time. Jun. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781683300731.
Gr 3-8–How do you get eight tennis superstars all into the same sports book? By asking the right questions. Here, 101 women athletes and their individual feats are gathered together in 120 or so pages. Who was the first player to dunk in a WNBA game? Lisa Leslie. Who shot the lowest round in LPGA tour history? Annika Sorenstam. The book is divided into chapters—“Superstars,” “Wonder Women,” “Trailblazers,” “Record Breakers,” and “Champions”—but many of the women featured could appear in any or all of the sections. Major sports are covered, so readers will find their favorite gymnasts and soccer players, but games like roller derby, bowling, and polo are also included. The main draw of the book is the action-packed photography on bright, colorful pages. The arresting images of women in motion will hook readers. Pages are dotted with elements such as “fast facts” and “wow factor” info boxes and quotes from the ­players. The slight back matter includes an ­index. VERDICT An inspiring and browsable ­selection for most nonfiction ­collections.–Marie Drucker, Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library, NY

ZUCKERMAN, Gregory with Gabriel & Elijah Zuckerman. Rising Above: Inspiring Women in Sports. 215p. bibliog. index. Philomel. Feb. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399547478.
Gr 6-8–The second book in the “Rising Above” series focuses on famous woman athletes who achieved greatness while overcoming personal and professional challenges. Zuckerman, co-authoring with his two sons, writes about 10 U.S. athletes dealing with a variety of challenges, including medical issues, racism, and loss. Each chapter shares the athletes’ backgrounds, early experiences, and achievements. The profiles span multiple eras (1960s great Wilma Rudolph, 2016 Olympian Simone Biles) and a variety of sports, from tennis to mixed martial arts. The pieces are substantial and include specific incidents; for example, Serena Williams’s Indian Wells tournament experience in 2001, where she was booed by racist spectators. There is also a welcome focus on overcoming body image challenges; while certainly not unique to women, it is not often spotlighted as an obstacle to athletic success. Features on arguably lesser-known athletes, such as WBNA stars Elena Delle Donne and Swin Cash, are a nice change of pace for young readers looking for examples of positive role models. VERDICT A varied and inspiring collection of sports biographies for middle school library collections.–Casey O’Leary, Mooresville Public Library, IN

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