Candlewick. Mar. 2023. 224p. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9781536201369. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781536231953.
Gr 6-8–Set in 1975, this graphic novel finds Wilkins High senior Judi setting aside her cheer captain pom-poms to follow her dreams of being a basketball player. Judi tries out in secret, afraid of her best friend’s opinion. However, with only eight girls showing up to tryouts, they all make the team. This new team is enthusiastic despite barriers: they have to practice in the elementary school gym and use an RV camper to travel; the head coach reports there wasn’t money in the school’s budget to support the team equally. Still, the Lady Bears (which one character correctly points out as sexist) rack up victory after victory, advancing to the state championships. By the end of the story, as the Bears travel to play their final winning game, family, friends, and community members have taken notice and support the team. Tavares based this story on the real players of the 1976 Warsaw High School girls’ basketball team. Title IX passed into law nearly four years prior, prompting a slow rollout of girls’ athletic programs across the U.S. This graphic interpretation of Tavares’s research, including interviews with team members, makes for an outstanding historical fiction depiction of this very real struggle. These obstacles could feel like problems of the past if it were not for Tavares’s well-constructed dialogue, attention to character dimension, and well-paced storytelling. Tavares draws 1970’s denim bellbottoms, feathered hair, and rotary phones with finesse. It is heartening that readers are finally getting more high-quality girl-centered stories from that era.
VERDICT This graphic novel depicts Title IX history in a fun and relatable way, giving modern readers a lot to recognize from their current teen experiences.

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