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Girls with Guts!: The Road to Breaking Barriers and Bashing Records

By Debbie Gonzales, illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon. Charlesbridge, 2019. 32 pages. $16.99/hardcover; $9.99/eBook. Recommended for ages 6–9.

Whether in the pews or on the playing fields, empowering women flows directly from the Friends testimony of equality. A new children’s book that details female athletes’ struggles to compete offers young readers an introduction to gender justice.

Girls with Guts! provides a succinct, fact-packed look at Western women’s historic struggles to play sports. The book spotlights individual women who defied restrictive social mores and discriminatory laws that prevented them from competing in the events they loved. The vividly illustrated volume clearly targets girls. However, the themes of overcoming obstacles and pursuing justice apply to children of all genders. Illustrations show some diversity in race and ability, but the book profiles only one African American athlete.

In addition to discussing individual sportswomen who overcame hurdles, the book tells of a New Jersey judge’s ruling that led to her state being the first to ban Little League gender discrimination. It also portrays dauntless demonstrators and committed congresswomen responsible for passing Title IX. An excerpt from the law appears in chunks of text, each one in a speech bubble from the mouth of a woman or girl.

Readers can easily catch the narrator’s exuberance in relating Title IX’s impact: 

A new generation of female athletes dominated the 1996 Olympics. Team USA crushed opponents from all over the world and became known as national heroes . . . Thanks to Title IX.

Parents and teachers seeking to illustrate practical outcomes of personal commitments to equality will find Girls with Guts! a welcome addition to their libraries.

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