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In Which I Apologise to Megan Crewe »
Back in early August, Doret Canon of the wonderful blog, The Happy Nappy Bookseller, wrote to thank me for linking to her and ”put in a request for a YA novel featuring girls playing sports. Any sport will do.” I misread her as asking for recommendations for such YA novels when she was in fact asking me to write ‘em. (What can I say August was kind of mental for me.) I was ashamed to discover that all I could think of was Catherine Murdock’s Dairy Queen series and my own How To Ditch Your Fairy. It transpired that Doret knows more about YA sports books than anyone else on the planet. We soon got to talking about books, sport, and YA about girls playing sport.
Justine: What came first for you a love of sport or a love of books?
Doret: Oh, man, that question is hard. I’ve loved sports and books for so long. Though I have to say books.
Justine: Me too. Do you remember the first book you read that was about sport?
Doret: Growing up I didn’t read sports books. It wasn’t until I started to work at a bookstore that I started to combine my love of both. In the mid 90′s a children’s biography of Satchel Paige by Lesa Cline Ransome and James Ransome—that book stopped me cold and said come here. And, I was like Shut Up, a bio on a Negro League Player, here I come. I had to read it right there.
Another biography—Wilma Unlimited (Wilma Rudolph) by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by David Diaz. Again I had to read the book on sight. I loved both biographies and I quickly learned sports and books go so well together.
Justine: How did you come to love sports?
Doret: I get it from my dad who is a big sports watcher himself. Baseball is my first and favorite. Growing up I used to love watching baseball games and giving my dad the scores. Any sports fan knows there is an art to giving the score.
Justine: Absolutely. That’s very similar to how I got into it. Watching cricket in the summer with my family.
Which are you most obsessed with? Or are you an equal opportunity sports lover?
Doret: Yeah, I pretty much enjoy watching any sport. In high school I would set my alarm so I could wake up to watch the Wimbledon finals. At the time I was also really into the NBA and would stay up late to watch West Coast playoff games.
I wasn’t born with the coordination to play but I have the mind for them. The announcer could be speaking Portuguese but I’ll still watch and understand. I’ve just always gotten sports.
Justine: Ah. So you have what I call “sports brain.” You can sit down and pick up any sport lickety split and then you have to be careful not to get addicted. (During the last Olympics I kind of got addicted to handball.)
Are there any sports you don’t like? (I can’t come at golf or American football.)
Doret: What? No American Football? I love the strength of that game. With the Olympics it’s usually volleyball that gets me in. Car Racing. I get the excitement in the last 5 laps but 500? That’s too much.
Justine: American Football seems designed to fit ad breaks on TV. Also I don’t hold with a sport that has entirely different teams to play offense and defense (and where most of the key decisions are made on the sidelines). One of the things I love about cricket is that you get to see players struggling to do something they’re not that good at: i.e. the fast bowler struggling to bat. It’s why I don’t approve of the designated hitter rule in baseball. It’s fun to watch the pitcher struggle with a bat.
I don’t like car racing either. But then I hate cars. Volleyball is awesome. I even like beach volleyball.
Doret: Have you heard of Beach Tennis? Just learned about it last week. Still not sure what I think of it.
American Football designed to fit ad breaks on TV? Man, that’s harsh. Think of football players as position specialists with something to prove. Football players don’t want to let the other side down. That’s especially evident on a 4 and goal play. Both sides are so determined for that one yard, it’s beautiful to watch. We may never agree about Amercan Football but we will always agree about Baseball. Pitchers should hit. I hate the DH rule as well. Some pitchers are actually starting to look halfway decent with a bat. Evolution at work. Did you know, this year in Japan for the first time a female pitcher was called up to the majors? Eri Yoshida, she is 17. I don’t know how she is with a bat but she’s supposed to have a wicked knuckball.
Justine: Well, we’ll have to agree to disagree on Gridiron. Glad you hate the DH rule though.
Beach tennis? Ha! I’ll have to check it out. I love regular tennis. Especially doubles.
Did you have to go searching for YA and middle grade books about girls playing sport?
Doret: A few months back I went on a serious reading kick with book featuring girls who play sports. It started because a sports blog I visit mentioned the 37th anniversary of title IX. The book and sport loving female that I am I didn’t think the anniversary should be ignored. I did have to make an effort to find a lot of the books but it was worth it. I discovered some wonderful new books. Though it’s frustrating that there aren’t more books about girls playing sports. The ones that are out don’t get much exposure. Girls playing and loving sports is not a new concept it goes well beyond 37 years. YA is geared towards girls and maybe even Middle Grade fiction to some extent, yet there’s such a limited amount of books featuring female athletes. I am so over the let’s put a girl on the boys’ team. It’s nice that male authors are recognizing female athletes but it’s not enough. Publishers need to realize girls play and love sports too.
And on a side note—Last year I read a book called Out of His League by Pat Flynn, an Australian author. The main character is a great Rugby player in Australia he moves to Texas to finish high school. He joins the football team and even introduces a few rubgy plays. It was a very fun read. Is it easier to find sports books with girls in Australia?
Justine: I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know whether there are many girl sports books at home. Hopefully people reading the interview will be able to tell us.
Justine: Could you explain a little bit what Title IX is? (Quite a few of my readers aren’t from the US.)
Doret: Explain a little bit about title IX? You didn’t say anything about homework!
Justine: I’m sneaky that way.
Doret: I will happily do it and go for a little extra credit while I am at it. Title IX was passed in the United States in June of 1972. It requires gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding. Title IX extends past the field into the class room. As far as sports goes money must be fairly distributed for boys’ and girls’ teams. Before its passing girls’ schools teams were under funded or completely ignored. Even with the passing of Title IX, many people still dismissed female athletes including tennis champion Bobby Riggs. In Sept 1973 Billie King defeated Bobby Riggs in three sets. 40 million people watched that match know as Battle of the Sexes.
“I just had to play . . . Title IX [the ban on gender discrimination in federally funded educational programs] had just passed, and I . . . wanted to change the hearts and minds of people to match the legislation.”
You gotta love what Billie Jean King said and did. There are some moments in sports that transcend beyond the game. In the U.S. King defeating Riggs is definitely one of those moments.
Justine: You get the extra credit! Thank you.
What do you think of the theory that girls who like sports don’t read? (I’ve had several girls write and tell me that they loved How To Ditch Your Fairy despite all the sport in it. On the other hand, I had another girl write and tell me she loved it because she’s a point guard. She comes from a family of basketball playing twins.) There does seem to be a conviction that girls have zero interest in sports books.
Doret: I haven’t heard that theory. Though I have heard that sports books featuring girls don’t sell. How can girls buy books they don’t know about. I always feel bad when a girl comes into the bookstore still in uniform mind you, searching for sports book and I have nothing to show them. It totally sucks. Also it sends an awful message to girls who play sports, that they must hunt down stories that reflect a big part of who they are. Let’s just hope that sports self esteem is working because under representation is bad for anyone’s psyche.
Justine: You said it. I can’t think of any girl sports books that have sold really well. I’m hoping that’s just ignorance on my part. Can you think of any really popular girl sports books?
Doret: No, you’re right there aren’t any sports books featuring girls that have sold really well. But, they haven’t been given a chance. It seems like such an obvious market and I don’t know why it’s being ignored. There are readers waiting and wanting and I am not just talking about the athletes. There are others like myself who simply enjoy and appreciate the games.
I would like to think the idea that girls don’t like sports is changing. A few years ago I was in a store and saw pink baseball gloves. Last Saturday while waiting for the train I saw a dad tossing a football back and forth with his little girl. They were on their way to a college football game. The other night on ESPN highlights, they showed a dad giving a foul ball to his daughter, she threw the baseball back onto the field. These girls may never play but there is no denying that they being raised to enjoy and appreciate sports. If girls don’t like sports then who are the pink gloves for? If girls don’t like sports, why is the WNBA still around? Hmm I wonder what would happen if a basketball book was marketed to female fans at a WNBA game or a softball book at the Softball World Series.
“For the past several years ESPN has televised the Big League Softball World Series, yet the competition has garnered so much attention that the network has decided to move this year’s final game into prime time television.”
People must be watching (and playing) softball for ESPN to move it to prime time, and it can’t be all men. Woman are all over ESPN as players, fans announcers and analysts. My television is constanly turned to that channel, so the idea that girls don’t like sports sounds ridiculously outdated to me.
Justine: I so agree! The idea that no girls like sports is nuts. Sadly, it persists in publishing. I wonder if it’s part of the whole boys don’t like to read thing. The idea being that boys would rather be outside playing sports (or their X-box). So that even if girls do like sports then they won’t like reading because sports-obsessed kids don’t read. I am unconvinced. Reading and sports are not opposites.
Do you get a lot of girls looking for sports books?
Doret: We get a few girls looking for sport books. Probably more girls aren’t seeking out sports books because they are conditioned not to, a reader can take “no we don’t have anything for you” until they just stop looking. That whole boys don’t read thing is ridiculous as well. Anyone who thinks a sports-obsessed kid wouldn’t like books about sports, has never read a sports book. If they did they’d know sports books are written by fans, athletes and players. They would realize that the best sports books describe the indescrible plays, making fans and players feeling lucky for getting it, and feel sorry for those who don’t.
Justine: So true! Publishers have to be more proactive. If the books aren’t there then people can’t find them, and you’re right, they stop looking. The publishers have to stop using the “there’s no audience” excuse when they have no evidence that that’s true. Drives me nuts.
Doret: Yes, it’s an awful cycle, I always get mad thinking about it.
Justine: I have been very interested to see that many of the reviews of HTDYF did not mention that the book is set at a sports high school and almost all the characters are athletes. The focus is on the fairies.
Doret: I loved the idea of an all sports school in HTDYF. I was very happy at the mention of cricket, don’t get much of that State side. Though I must say I felt teased. There was wonderful talk of cricket in HTDYF but no match. My sports brain was all ready to enjoy a game. I could see reviewers talking over that part of the HTDYF if they only cared more about the fairy aspect. I know sports fans would love the idea of a sports school though they would want more games. Writing that I realize, it must be hard for authors to satisfy all readers, sports related or not.
Justine: It is, indeed, tricky. Though I did fail with HTDYF. There was a lot more sport in the earlier versions but descriptions of games really bogged the book down and I wound up having to cut them. (Much to my sadness.) I found it really interesting that I couldn’t find a way to have it be a true spots novel and also be the novel that it is. I truly did try. I do have plans for a basketball novel—WNBA to be exact—at some point in the future. It’s on the list. (It’s a very long list though.)
Doret: A WNBA novel? Sweet. As much as you love basketball I know it will be great. I used to love basketball until the Knicks wouldn’t stop drafting guards. Bastards, took my joy. Now I just do playoffs and March madness.
Justine: But you could follow the Atlanta Dream! Their transformation this year has been totally amazing. From worst in the league last year to making the playoffs this. And I love their shoot and run style of play. They have Angel McCoutrey (not sure I’m spelling that right. Spelling’s not my strong suit.) who’s been on of the best rookies this year and has a hell of a career ahead of her. Frankly I enjoy the WNBA way more than the NBA. (Though I just watched the worst game ever on ESPN 2. Damn those refs.)
And, yes, the Knicks are a disaster. Have been a disaster ever since they traded Patrick Ewing and Jeff Van Gundy left. They have truly horrendous management.
Doret: Maybe I will watch a few of the playoff games. When the WNBA started the Liberty drafted Rebecca Lobo, (I am from NY) I always thought she was just okay player, and not someone to start a team around sure enough the LA Sparks seemed to win all the time. At the time Atlanta didn’t have a team so I couldn’t watch or go to any games. I do enjoy women’s college ball. Refs can be awful sometimes, all I can do is scream at the TV, and it makes me feel slightly better.
Justine: Ugh. Refs. I mean, yes, it’s a tough job. They don’t get paid enough. And the fans hate them. But I have seen too many games ruined by over officiating. I quite like Lobo as a commentator but, yeah, her pro basketball career was underwhelming. You do not want to get me started on the management of the New York Liberty!
Let’s end on a positive note: What are your five favourite girls playing sports books?
Doret: Boost by Kathy Mackel—Basketball, fans of Murdork’s Diary Queen series will enjoy this.
Soccer Chicks Rule by Dawn FitzGerald—A must for girls who enjoy Meg Cabot and playing on their field of choice.
Keeping Score by Linda Sue Park—Baseball, like me this protagonist isn’t a player, simply a lover of the game.
Necessary Hunger by Nina Revoyr—Basketball, a very beautiful multi-layered story. It’s one of the few featuring people of color.
A Strong Right Arm by Michelle Green—A biography of Mamie “Peaunt” Johnson. One of three women to play in the Negro Leagues and the only pitcher.
I am going to try and be smooth here and slip in two more, making 7 the new 5:
The Ring by Bobbie Pyron—Boxing and Twenty Miles by Cara Hedley Hockey.
I really enjoyed both books. I love that both have female protagonist playing sports that some wouldn’t consider lady like. No one should be limited by gender or race.
Justine: That’s exactly the note to end on. What Doret said, No one should be limited by gender or race.
Posted by Justine at 0:30, 22 September 2009 under Basketball, How To Ditch Your Fairy, Young Adult literature | 34 Comments »
Wow. The situation sounds really bad for sports books in the US!
Just thinking off the top of my head of YA I read growing up, there was the ever-popular Tessa Duder’s Alex series, with a young woman working to get to the Rome Olympics in swimming, and also Duder’s Night Race to Kawerau, with a really gripping account of a yachting race…perhaps NZ YA fiction is better supplied in this respect?
September 22nd, 2009 at 1:21 AM
There’s a bazillion books about girls being ballerinas or riding horses, so I see no inherent reason why there shouldn’t be as many about girls playing other sports.
September 22nd, 2009 at 1:26 AM
Karen Healey Says:
The ALEX QUARTET oh yes, I am re-reading it RIGHT NOW. And now I am inspired to write up a huge thing on all the sports books I read as a kid, even though I am as sports-ignorant as you can get for a girl who was raised by two parents who both coached.
September 22nd, 2009 at 5:34 AM
Great interview and suggestions for further reading, thanks! We’re not a very sports-oriented family, but I know one reason both daughters loved the Spiderwick Chronicles was Mallory’s sport: fencing.
September 22nd, 2009 at 8:17 AM
Recommending Karen Day’s No Cream Puffs, though it’s on the younger side of YA.
September 22nd, 2009 at 9:21 AM
Neesha Meminger Says:
I LOVED this interview. I played soccer as a teen (had to fight to get my parents to allow it), and I was definitely one of those academically-inclined “good girls” before that. Soccer opened me up to a side of myself I didn’t even know was there; the side that reveled in my physicality and wanted to test my limits. I remember saying to my parents after the first season, “Oh, now I know why you didn’t want me to play.”
I say more sports books for bookish-sporty girls!!
September 22nd, 2009 at 10:21 AM
I think it’s hard in general to find sports books, but for girls I can’t think of any besides Dairy Queen, while I can at least think of a few for boys.
I was talking to an 8-year-old boy and his mom the other day, and he’s struggling with reading because of his ADD and because he generally prefers to read books with boys like him — black boys into sports, or sports books about black players — and they struggle to find enough books to fill that need. Girls in a similar situation, looking for books about girls into sports and only finding horses and ballet (which I was into, but I can understand girls not being into) would be an even tougher situation.
Here’s a question for you who *are* sports-obsessed from an editor who definitely isn’t: I can see the need, but I myself am not sporty at all. I’m not interested in seeing them come through because I’m not interested in reading them. But I can see a need for it in the market. How do we address that on the publishing side of things, if (perhaps) many editors are like me? One obvious answer would be “more editors who like sports.” Just knowing that kids want more sports books isn’t enough — we need people in publishers who will have a sense for how these books will do in the market and be able to pick books that will fit the needs of the readership and be able to sell. I know I don’t feel qualified to do that, because I’m not not-quite-as-sporty girl who preferred the horse and ballet books as a kid.
September 22nd, 2009 at 11:35 AM
I found it kind of funny that Doret said: “Though it’s frustrating that there aren’t more books about girls playing sports.” She must have reviewed 8 million of them in the past year! I hope everyone will go over to her blog, “The Happy Nappy Bookseller” (isn’t that the best blog name ever?!!!) and check out her reviews! You want girls and sports? Doret’s got ‘em!!!
September 22nd, 2009 at 12:16 PM
Dave H Says:
This is one of the coolest things you’ve ever posted – I’m going to make sure that Brittany sees it, and show her Doret’s blog. I think she’ll really enjoy it – she’s always looking for new things to read.
September 22nd, 2009 at 12:39 PM
Diana Peterfreund Says:
Well, I’d argue horse riding is a sport. Just like race cars.
I’ve gotten readers come up to me about one of the main characters in my book being a volleyball player (with a college scholarship no less) even though she never plays volleyball in the book. They all do archery, though.
Wasn’t the one girl in Travelling Pants a big time soccer player? Or was that only in the movie?
Then, of course, there’s everyone’s favorite jock, Harry Potter. It was a fake sport, but it was a sport, it was a big part of the books, and it was the only thing he was really good at.
Great post! This is so interesting!
September 22nd, 2009 at 12:56 PM
Jo Ann Hernandez Says:
Very exciting. I was a tomboy in high school which lead to some experiences. Nice to know young women today are reaching for more.
I’ll be twitting this on @LatinoBookNews Doret do you have a twitter name? I’ve looked all over and can’t find one.
BronzeWord Latino Authors
Thanks to you, Justine, I’ve just realized my karate novel has a girl protagonist (not a big deal to change — I’ve got 578 words).
September 22nd, 2009 at 1:39 PM
Deleted Comment Says:
[This comment was deleted by the blog overlord because it was an ad for the commenter's own book. Blog overlord does not accept advertisements---paid or unpaid.]
September 22nd, 2009 at 4:00 PM
Home Run by Paula Boock (a NZ author) is all about female friendship and softball. Highly recommend anything by Boock, she’s amazing.
The Alex Quartet, by Tessa Duder, which people have mentioned already.
Also when I was a kid, there was a whole series of books by different authors about mixed sports teams (there was one about touch rugby by David Hill, which was my favourite, and ones about cricket, netball, hockey and basketball). Growing up in a sports obsessed family, with a little sister who lived and breathed basketball and netball, she would actually read these books so my mother would buy them.
I think it was a really popular genre in New Zealand children’s writing for a while there. But then everyone I knew played sport through primary and secondary school (I am the least coordinated person ever yet I played netball and hockey all through high school, and my high school, which heavily encouraged playing seriously and forming social teams, had 55 netball teams at one point, which was about half the school).
September 22nd, 2009 at 5:05 PM
LOL JoAnn, Doret doesn’t Twitter…yet…
Great timing on this! I was just reshelving books today, say a fiction about girls’ basketball, another by Matt Christopher about girls’ baseball and they’ve been just sitting so long that I decided to put them face out at the end of the shelf to give them a chance. I don’t think we realize as librarians, editors, authors or booksellers how the way we approach books affects others willingness to give something different a try. The way I see it, it’s not about my interest: I’m trying to open a world of possibilities to students. So, I have to ‘market’ what I may not necessarily think I enjoy reading. I often find I like more than I thought when I just give things a chance! Doret’s blog introduces me to wonderful middle school books and sports books that I would typically miss. She’s such a sport!
September 22nd, 2009 at 6:04 PM
Oh, wow. Now that I think of it, there aren’t a whole lot of YA novels in which girls in sports are portrayed — at least not positively, as they are in MG novels. I was really annoyed with the first of the Traveling Pants books because the sporty girl was also kind of a messing with her soccer coach. Now I’ll have to go back and see if there are tons of instances which pair sporty with “troubled.”
Always nice to find out more about our fellow bloggers! Doret is a kick.
September 22nd, 2009 at 6:16 PM
I don’t know how easy these books are to find, but R.R. Knudson wrote a few books about girls in sports. Fox Running is about a colllage-age female runner trying to break the 4 minute mile. Zanbanger is a teenage girl who tries out for the boy’s basketball team.
September 22nd, 2009 at 7:20 PM
Hmm, how about Justina Chen Headley’s Girl Overboard? I love that book. <333
I don't know many YA sports novel in general, to be honest. I was the type of girl who hated gym, so I went out of my way to avoid all books that had sport activities in them. It was only very recently (as in, this summer) when tried my hardest to find sports fiction reading material featuring female athletes – specifically, sports manga w/ girls. Reading this interview brought back all my frustration I remember feeling as I would browse through the shoujo manga section (like YA/MG comics, but geared specifically towards girls), checking out all the titles that had the "sports" label on them, and only to find out in disgust that it was 9 out of 10 times about girls who were in LOVE with their dream boy athlete and basically being the cheerleader/supporter girlfriend. (Nothing wrong with romance about girls liking sporty boys! Just that I really wanted to read about *female* athletes and the fact that this romance would be categorized as "sports" made me really frustrated.) Even after all my searching, I only ended up finding ONE title in the shoujo section with girls playing sports (Crimson Hero). And then I would look at the endless variety of sports manga for boys and rage with no small amount of jealousy.
…Ahaha… Long comment is long. ToT
September 22nd, 2009 at 7:57 PM
For sports, the tension and the strategy of them, the Harry Potter books (Quidditch scenes) and P.G. Wodehouse’s Mike: A Public School Story (cricket) do really well.
That wasn’t what struck me most about How to Ditch Your Fairy. What I loved there was the characters’ joy in physicality, in challenging their bodies and seeing what they could do. I can’t think of a lot of books that convey that really well; maybe Sara Hall’s Drawn to the Rhythm, a rowing book that’s exactly about reclaiming that joy, but it’s not a YA book.
I think the lack of that joy is exactly why so many girls don’t like sports. I for one absolutely suck at ball and team sports. Even when I played Ultimate Frisbee as an adult, I advanced all the way from horrible to pretty bad; in contrast, my husband (then new boyfriend) came out just once and was pretty good. He had all those basic skills I’d never developed. I’m hoping all the young girls who play soccer today will have those, but I think some of us just need to be exposed to different sports. If I’d played Little League as a kid, I’d have been better equipped, but I doubt I’d have been good. I can run but I can’t judge distance well, and don’t have a tactical brain. But I enjoyed gymnastics, could maybe have been OK with actual coaching. When I learned to row as an adult it was a revelation because *no one* had skills that translated to it, so I was starting out on the same level as everyone else. I don’t have the height or the slow-twitch muscle fibers to ever be great, but there’s nothing to keep me from being good.
September 22nd, 2009 at 10:24 PM
Could only be great if you’re talking with Doret. I had thought about boys and sports books but not girls, and I was a girl who chose a race track over dolls. Doret turned me on to girls and sport books. Glad to see her featured here.
September 22nd, 2009 at 10:36 PM
21. Justine Says:
Dichroic: There are plenty of books about boys and sport. What we don’t have plenty of are books about girls and sport.
Justine: Maybe about organized sports. But I still can’t think of many in which the characters seem to enjoy their own physicality in the same way as in How to Ditch Your Fairy, even in books about boys. Maybe I’m reading the wrong genre.
There was a 1950s author of YA girls’ books, Betty Cavanna, in which each book centered on an activity. One was Angel on Skis, another was Girls Can Fly, Too! Each had some element of romance, but half the time the girl and boy just ended up friends – the focus was always on the thing she was learning to do, in which he was also involved (sometimes ahead of her, sometimes learning beside her). So there were sports (or something like flying a plane), learning one’s own capabilities, and cross-gender friendships, all in there. I’d love to see someone write updated versions.
September 22nd, 2009 at 10:51 PM
Lori Calabrese Says:
Hooray for Doret! I met Doret online when I decided to start a blog dedicated solely to sports books for children and teens and now I always love reading Doret’s sports book reviews and recommendations. I have to agree with her wholeheartedly that sports books for girls tend to get ignored. There’s just not a lot out there. Unfortunately, I think sports books for kids and teens in general tend to get overlooked and don’t receive as much exposure as the next best fantasy novel.
The next time you’re at it, google sports books for kids. I’m astounded at the lack of reviews out there. Thankfully, Doret’s one of the few that realize that sports and books just go together.
All the best,
Get in the Game–Read
September 22nd, 2009 at 11:20 PM
Quiddtch was the one thing I enjoyed about Harry Potter.
Headley’s Girl Overboard is a great book. I loved the snowboarding protagonist.
I don’t know if books with girls playing sports would be bestsellers, but I think there’s a big enough market for them to be a solid, consistent, profitable sellers.
If publishers determine need for more sports books w/ female protagonist based off of the sales of whats already out, of course there won’t be more. No one knows about the books that are out Sports books with girls don’t get publicity. The whole thing makes me want to scream.
I really appreciate Justine, for wanting to do this. Hopefully people will find a few great sports titles and after reading the goodness that is a female athlete begin to question why this genre is so lacking.
September 23rd, 2009 at 12:56 AM
There is, of course, the long tradition (now mostly defunct) of girls’ boarding school stories, where the climax is often The Hockey Match, or The Cricket Match. (Of course, this – and the boys’ equivalent – is what JKR is drawing on for the role quidditch plays in the HP books). Watching real hockey or cricket bores me to tears, but I have read and read and read again the matches in, for example, Antonia Forest’s “The Cricket Term”. It is not really a “sports book”, but cricket is certainly one of the key plot threads.
Also looking at older books, in Noel Streatefeild’s “Tennis Shoes” (1937) the girls are the two most talented tennis players in the family (one a potential star), and “White Boots” (1951) is about two girl ice skaters. A bit more YA is “The Silver Seven” (Rita Ritchie, 1972) which is also about a girl who wants to be a champion ice skater.
September 23rd, 2009 at 8:21 AM
WHOA. Thank you for sharing this fascinating conversation, Justine and Doret!!! (That story about Title IX is particularly frickin’ awesome.)
Now I am dreaming of YA books featuring the martial arts….
September 23rd, 2009 at 2:02 PM
Beth Kephart Says:
I adore Doret and love this interview. The topic reminded me of an ALAN panel that I was to have joined last October in San Antonio (sadly, my plane never got me there). The title was Sports Stories = Life Stories, and Catherine Murdoch, Justina Chen Henley, and Matt de la Pena were among the featured writers, three writers who do sports in YA beautifully.
September 23rd, 2009 at 7:26 PM
I’m not that big of a sports fan, but I will read books about girls who play them.
I haven’t read it, but I know that Screwball by Keri Mikulski (hope I spelled that right) is about girls playing baseball, and there’s a sequel.
The Million Dollar Goal by Dan Gutman has a girl protagonist and involves a soccer (set in the US) contest. It’s MG, but it was the first book I ever got signed by an author, so I’ll never forget it. I’ve read it about 5 times.
September 23rd, 2009 at 8:14 PM
Barrie Summy Says:
This was a fascinating interview. Not that I was surprised.
September 24th, 2009 at 12:04 AM
A Strong Right Arm was a really good book! Another good book is older but very good is Run For Your Life. I’m interested in reading these other titles you have listed, Doret.
As a teenage athlete, I think the notion that girls (or boys) that playlike sports don’t read is ridiculous. I love reading books about sports and I wish there were more with female athletes. I haven’t read many with female athletes. I loved Heat by Mike Lupica (it’s about a Latino kid who loves baseball) and anything by John Feinstein (two main characters, one a boy and one a girl both sports fanatatics and players). I’ve played many sports over the years and I would love to see a book about field hockey (what I currently play). I’ve seen titles with girls who play basketball or soccer or run track, but those seem to be the only sports mentioned. I would like to see more boxing, car-racing, roller derby (I think that’s what it’s called!), fencing, and any other unusal or less well-known sports with female main characters.
September 25th, 2009 at 10:00 PM
Thanks for all the great suggestions. Will definitely have to check some of them out. Have you read the Pretty Tough books by Liz Tigelaar? I liked the first one better than the second one but both were really great and seem to fit in perfectly with this genre. Real girls playing real sports. The author is also a TV writer so the dialogue is great. I think lots of girls – whether they play sports or not – will love these books.
October 11th, 2009 at 3:31 PM
Keri Mikulski Says:
Yay!!!! THANK YOU!!! I love this interview!! I could go on and on and on and on and on and on about this topic..
Sporty books do sell. Like Doret said, it’s about getting to the girls who are programmed to think these books don’t exist or afraid ‘it’s going to be another novel about a ‘cliched’ tomboy. I’ve had book signings at softball tournaments and sold over one hundred copies of SCREWBALL and CHANGE UP. It’s an untapped market.
More sporty books coming soon.
October 11th, 2009 at 3:46 PM
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