Girls with Guts!

With cheerful illustrations and accessible text, this look back at the evolution of equality in sports is for the younger set – which is not to say the book is insubstantial. Gonzales relates the experiences of several notables in the history of female sports pioneers, going back to Melpomene, an athlete who thumbed her nose at the forbidding of women to participate in the first modern Olympics in 1896 by running the marathon anyway. When she wasn’t allowed to finish on the field with the men, she ran the final lap AROUND THE OUTSIDE OF THE STADIUM. Gonzales ends with Little League pitcher Maria Pepe, an eleven-year-old girl who had the support of the New York Yankees in 1972 when New Jersey Little League officials said she could no longer play with boys. A female judge intervened, and New Jersey became the first state to prohibit sex discrimination in Little League – one of several legal advances Gonzales interweaves with the profiles of Melpomene, Pepe, Althea Gibson, Gertrude Ederle, and others. Gonzales effectively peppers her text with motivating language, like a coach giving a pep talk to her players – “valiant warriors,” “a barrier ripe and ready to be broken,” “toe-to-toe,” “stomp, jab, tackle, grind, and SWEAT.” The book concludes with a detailed timeline of milestones for women in sports and an author’s note that puts a truly awesome spin on the phrase “play like a girl.” Gibbon’s artwork is bright and upbeat, showing women and girls competing in sports and marching for equal rights. This is a really great primer on the efforts of women to achieve parity on the court, the field, the track, and in the water, so share it with a group of young athletes and inspire them to yes, play like a girl!

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