We often hear negative things in the media about women in sport – unequal pay, lack of coverage on TV, body shaming, girls not participating in sports at school. I even saw one report which claimed a ‘lack of role models’. Obviously that report writer hadn’t read this book! Beautifully illustrated and concisely written, it aims to inspire and encourage girls to achieve success in sports, featuring fifty female athletes who broke boundaries, overcame difficulties, achieved world records and followed their dreams. Published this year by Wren & Rook (Hachette Children’s), this book was bought as a gift for an eleven-year-old and I had to read it before the wrapping paper went on…
The format of this book is simple. Each athlete has two pages, containing biography, quotes and energetic illustrations. They are arranged in chronological order of birth, from figure skater Madge Syers to gymnast Simone Biles. At the beginning there’s a timeline, from the first Olympic Games around 776 BCE (women weren’t even allowed to watch, let alone compete) through to the present day, in which women are breaking records but are still ‘fighting for equal access, exposure and pay’. There are other features, such as muscle anatomy, statistics on TV coverage and the pay gap, influential sports teams and a bibliography.
A variety of sports are represented and there is a diverse selection of athletes. Some of these are famous, while others are lesser known (at least by me). Tiny Broadwick, the first woman to parachute from a plane. Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim the English Channel, beating the world record too. Althea Gibson, the first black player to win a Grand Slam title. Beryl Burton, who set speed records in cycling. Junko Tabei, the first woman to summit Mount Everest. Patti McGee, the first professional female skateboarder. Melissa Stockwell, paratriathlete and war veteran. And many more!
‘So ask yourself: what is my next victory? Play hard, keep up that hustle and don’t be afraid to dream big, because you are strong.’
I don’t play sports (unless you count reading?) but this book made me want to, even though I barely know one end of a tennis racket from the other.