TEN MIDDLE-GRADE BOOKS FEATURING GIRLS IN SPORTS by Kristin L. Gray
When I was a kid, books with sports almost exclusively centered on boys. Times are changing, and I’m thrilled to see more girl athlete stories fighting for spots on our bookshelves. Even better, I’ve found you don’t have to be an all-star in any given sport to enjoy these titles. Tales of friendship, family, and fitting in resonate with everyone. That’s winning in my playbook. Let’s grab a book and huddle up.
Breaking the Ice by Gail Nall (2015)
Kaitlin has always dreamed of being an Olympic figure skater, and she’s worked hard to join the Ridgeline Skating Club. But after throwing an uncharacteristic and NOT figure-skating-approved tantrum over her scores at a major competition, she’s dropped by her long-time coach Hildy and her prestigious skate club. Kaitlin shows us that when you fall down, you have to pick yourself up – with grace and aplomb.
Braced by Alyson Gerber (2017)
Rachel is excited she’s finally earned a place as forward on her soccer team. But there’s one catch. Rachel has scoliosis, and x-rays reveal the S-shaped curve in her spine has grown worse. Rachel’s doctor orders her to wear a back brace twenty-three hours a day. The brace is hard, plastic, and stretches from her shoulders to her hips. Rachel’s clothes no longer fit. She can’t run. She sure can’t tell her friends. But how will she ever kick a ball? Written by a debut author who wore a brace of her own, Braced is an inspiring story of courage and resilience.
Gabby Garcia’s Ultimate Playbook by Iva-Marie Palmer (2017)
Gabby Garcia is having the best game, okay year, of her life. She’s in the middle of pitching a no-hitter, when her perfect world comes to a screeching halt. Through no fault of her own, Gabby has to move schools. Only at this new school, she’s no longer the all-star or wanted on the baseball team. Gabby knows she can win at life again . . . she just needs a plan. Gabby’s story is highly illustrated and perfect for fans of Big Nate and Dork Diaries.
Junior Lifeguards: The Test by Elizabeth Doyle Carey (2017)
From the author of the best-selling Cupcake Diaries series, meet thirteen-year-old Jenna Bowers, a competitive swimmer whose passion for the sport is slowly waning. Feeling pressure from her parents and coach, Jenna decides to hop out of the pool for the summer and into the ocean. She and three friends (Piper, Selena, and Ziggy) try out for the junior lifeguard crew at Cape Cod. Rivalries and teen romances abound in this fun summer read, the first in a four-book series.
Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee (2003)
Girl genius and reluctant athlete, eleven-year-old Millicent is hesitant to play volleyball. But it is at practice where she befriends her teammate, Emily Ebers. However, Millicent believes in order to become Emily’s friend, she must hide the fact that she is smart. This Sid Fleischman Humor Award-winning novel is wholly charming and the first in a series.
Patina (Track #2) by Jason Reynolds (2017)
Ever since Patina, or Patty, showed up in Ghost (2016), I’ve wanted to hear her story. Patty’s life is no joke. Her father’s dead. Her mom lost her legs to diabetes. Patty and her little sister live with their uncle and aunt, a loving, makeshift family. Though they see their mom once a week at church, life is tough. Patty’s running track with the Defenders gives her an extended family and a much-needed outlet for stress. She loves running. She loves winning. She’s fast. Then Coach asks her to run a relay . . . A relay?
Planet Middle School by Nikki Grimes (2011)
Twelve-year-old Joylin Johnson loves baggy jeans, T-shirts, and an easy pony tail. Basketball with the boys—especially her friend Jake—is all it takes to put a smile on her face. Then everything changes at once. Her best girl friend is now flirting with her best guy friend. Her clothes seem all wrong. Jake is acting weird, and basketball isn’t the same. And worst of all, there is this guy, Santiago, who appears from . . . where? In short poems that capture adolescence, award-winning author Nikki Grimes has crafted a delightful, often hilarious, heart-tugging story.
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson (2015)
For most of her twelve years, Astrid has done everything with her best friend Nicole. But after Astrid falls in love with roller derby and signs up for derby camp, Nicole decides to go to dance camp instead . . . Oh, my middle school heart. Real-life derby girl Victoria Jamieson spins an inspiring coming-of-age story about friendship, perseverance, and girl power in this debut graphic novel which earned five starred reviews and a Newbery Honor.
The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City by Jodi Kendall (2017)
Josie’s family is too big, and their cramped city house is too small. Plus, Josie’s all too aware she’s having a growth spurt. Her height will make it harder to level up in her beloved gymnastics. Then, her older brother brings home a piglet he rescued from a nearby farm. The minute Josie holds Hamlet, she feels a connection, and maybe a new purpose. But there’s no room for a growing piglet in their already crowded house. Dad says it’s up to Josie to find Hamlet a forever home, fast.
Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge by Kristin L. Gray (2017)
Left-handed softball player Vilonia Beebe wants two things: a dog and for her bereaved mama to come out of the fog. When Vilonia learns dogs can help people with depression, she launches the Great Pet Campaign, combining the two goals. Vilonia even takes on odd jobs to prove she’d make a responsible pet owner. But when the school’s goldfish goes belly up on her watch, Vilonia’s mad pitching skills are put to the test at the annual Catfish Festival.
Kristin L. Gray drinks coffee and writes books from her home in northwest Arkansas. She loves to read, walk her dogs, and eat cake for breakfast. Kristin’s fourth-grade self would never believe she has five children, two dogs, one fish, a bearded dragon, and a shy gecko. Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge is her first novel. To learn more about Kristin, or to send her a cake, visit her online at KristinLGray.com.