The Golden Girls Of Rio (Nikkolas Smith)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Golden Girls Of Rio by Nikkolas Smith, a celebration of the gold-winning female athletes of the 2016 Summer Olympics.

In the summer of 2016, on the world’s stage, a handful of young female athletes captivated, awed, and inspired. But before these young women were champions, they were little girls from all across America, who worked hard and practiced tirelessly to become the best in their sports. They made friends and formed teams along the way, and were invited to represent their country in the largest athletic competition in the world – and all of them triumphed. Michelle Carter became the first US gold medalist in shotput, while Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel broke multiple swimming records between them. And of course, The Final Five, the multiple gold medal-winning gymnastics team, including Simone Biles, the most decorated US gymnast of all time.

A cute book that celebrates some seriously awesome women. If you weren’t enraptured by the female US athletes during the Rio Olympics, you weren’t watching, and it’s great that there is a book that celebrates not only their achievements, but the immense amounts of determination and hard work that went into reaching gold. The digital art is a little uneven, lacking depth at times but creating great abstract visuals at others, and is the one place where the book struggles. Otherwise, the length is fine, and JJ definitely enjoyed it. One personal note: since the book was published, members of the Final Five have gone on to be prominent figures in the #MeToo movement, and instrumental in prosecuting one of the worst monsters and most corrupt institutions brought to light in this reckoning. So in my very biased opinion, any book that celebrates them as athletes and women deserves to be shared with every little reader. Baby Bookworm approved.

Mighty Jackie: The Strike-Out Queen (Marissa Moss)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Mighty Jackie: The Strike-Out Queen, written by Marissa Moss and illustrated by C.F. Payne, a girl-powered true story of the one of the first female professional baseball players.

On a sunny day in April of 1931, a small minor league team called the Chattanooga Lookouts were preparing for an exhibition game with one of the best major league teams in the country: The New York Yankees. Reporters and fans filled the stands, many to see the Lookouts’ pitcher: Jackie Mitchell. As a little girl, Jackie was told by nearly everyone that girls couldn’t and shouldn’t play baseball – but her father believed in her, as did her neighbor Dizzy Vance (a professional pitcher himself), so they trained her. Jackie practiced relentlessly, and at the age of only seventeen, found herself in front of a jeering crowd, up against one of the most talented ball clubs in history. But what Jackie did next was extraordinary – she struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig back-to-back, stunning the crowd and making baseball history.

Very, very cool. I was vaguely aware of Mitchell, and was pleased to hear about this book when it was recommended to us so that we could learn more (as depressing postscript, Jackie’s success embarrassed many of baseballs higher-ups, and her contract was voided a few days later by the baseball commissioner, who declared the game “too strenuous” for women. Mitchell continued to play for small clubs, but retired six years later, tired of being used as a novelty). The story on its own is uplifting and empowering, and centers on the theme that greatness takes hard work and belief in oneself as well as opportunity. The illustrations are lovely, using a nostalgic, realistic style that fits the humble and determined protagonist. A good length, and JJ was enthralled by the end. An awesome story about an inspiring female athlete, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Thanks to Christine Nault for the recommendation!)