Turtle: Overcoming Hurdles Female Athletes Face Through The Power of Reading

Guest post by Pamela Jouan-Goldman and Julia Goldman

Pamela Jouan-Goldman and Julia Goldman photo

What started as a pandemic project morphed into something more for my daughter and I, inspired by her own journey as an athlete. As a mother of a 12-year old who has been running since she was five, it’s easy to see how we collected so many stories about running, meets, coaches, and team interactions over the past seven years. Rolling them into TURTLE, a Middle Grade fiction sports book and the first in the Run Like A Girl series, was a wonderful exercise in memory-gathering and organizing. The result is a story about a fifth-grader who moves to the Lowcountry and after some social drama finds herself part of a competitive running club. As Emma Jackson pushes herself to discover who she is and what she is made of, the power of team sports becomes obvious.  

The sad reality is that by the age of 14, girls traditionally drop out of sports at twice the rate of boys (Women’s Sports Foundation). As their bodies change, their attention pulled in many directions, and their minds challenged, it’s easy to see how it happens. The Run Like A Girl series is a challenge to all female athletes to stick with it. With a subtle girl power theme that gets bolder as the Run Like A Girl series progresses, TURTLE takes a first step to address the stigma of girls in sports by first planting a seed about what team running can offer them: confidence, leadership, community, purpose, self-discipline and a realization that running like a girl is something to aspire to.

Because we owe a lot to the running community, TURTLE was also a way to give back. Starting with our own local running club, Mount Pleasant Track Club, we started to use book sales to raise money for female athletes to fund travel expenditures to high-profile meets. Next we turned to other female-empowering organizations such as Girls on The Run to raise awareness and money. We are currently in the process of reaching out to track and running clubs around the country with a similar plan. Writing a book never felt so right as we stick to the mantra: inspiring young runners to read and young readers to run.

You can find Turtle on amazon. For more information about Pamela Jouan-Goldman and Julia Goldman, go to runlikeagirlbooks.com

Book Review: Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round by Kathlyn J. Kirkwood

Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me 'Round cover image

Every January governments, workplaces, and people around the U.S. pause to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his legacy. But the national holiday that falls on or near his birthday each year didn’t simply arise on its own in the years after King’s death. Instead it took dedicated work by a legion of people who were determined that this man would be honored and remembered for his accomplishments.

One of those people, Kathlyn J. Kirkwood, has written a memoir in verse about her own experience with activism starting in childhood and how she came to fight for a holiday in King’s name. Called Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round, the book is punctuated with illustrations, photos, and historic documents.

Kathlyn’s story starts in 1968 in Memphis, Tennesse, when she was a senior in high school. She tells about the events leading to King’s assassination and her participation in the Freedom Train, which was part of the Poor People’s Campaign. In words simple and profound, she captures the feeling of the times and how people can come together to change hearts and minds around an important issue.

The back of the book contains a glossary and also a brief civics lesson, with a graphic depiction of how a bill becomes law. I recommend Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round for readers aged 10 to 13.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Puzzle Odyssey by Helen Friel & Ian Friel

Puzzle Odyssey, An Epic Maze Adventure by Helen Friel & Ian Friel introduces young readers to Homer’s classic tale of Odysseus’s long journey home after the Trojan War.

Puzzle Odyssey cover image

The authors provide a synopsis of the story, told a few adventures at a time. Then readers are faced with several mazes and puzzles that challenge their skills of observation while illustrating something from the tale.

For instance, following the section titled, “Story Part I: Lotus, Sheep, and Cannibals,” that describes Odysseus’s encouters with the Lotus Eaters, readers are asked to navigate a field filled with flowers. Instructions tell them which way they can move through the field while avoiding lotus flowers to get back to the ship. Illustrations from Jesús Sotés are beautifully drawn, and part of the appeal of going through the challenges.

A cast of characters at the beginning helps keep the story flowing. Also, a note at the end talks about Homer and what historians believe about him and his books, the Iliad and the Odyssey.

Puzzle Odyssey is a great way to get kids interested in the historical books and have fun while they learn. I recommend it for ages 9 to 13.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Nom Nom Nom by Jeffrey Burton

Nom Nom Nom cover image

Nom Nom Nom: A Yummy Book With Flaps by Jeffrey Burton is a whimsical little board book that poses questions to kids about what certain animals may like to eat. The choices are often funny, and it can prompt kids to talk about what they do and don’t like to eat. Here’s an example from the book:

“Little Shark has an empty stomach. What does he want to eat? Fish sticks with ketchup, or pizza and tacos, or cheese-covered jellyfish spicy baked nachos? Which would you choose?”

Each two-page spread features a different animal with foods on one page and a pull-up flap illustration of the animal on the other page. Inside the animal’s mouth are the words Nom Nom Nom. The repetition is attention-getting, and the words can prompt fun conversations about all kinds of foods and eating.

Illustrations by Sarah Hwang are colorful and cute.

The author provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Photo Ark ABC by Debbie Levy and Joel Srtore

Photo Ark ABC cover image

The stunning photographs of animals are paired with verse that just itches to be spoken. Also, the words are different sizes, shapes and colors that move across the page flowing around and between, over and under photographs. For instance, on the page R is for Rhinoceros, the words splish, splash, splat, splurt are arranged to look like a wave that moves up and down.

Alphabet picture books are perennially popular for a reason: They make good read alouds for parents and their children. A great addition to the category is a new book by photographer Joel Sartore and writer Debbie Levy called Photo Ark ABC: An Animal Alphabet in Poetry and Pictures.

Visually, each page has a lot to look at and quite a bit to learn. The poetic devices used throughout make the rhythm of the reading fun. And the facts go down easy, too. Kids will be exposed to animals they’ve never heard of and words that are new to them. (And maybe even to some that are new to parents. For instance, a group of animals referred to as Xenarthra, was a new one for me!)

The end of the book features small photos of all the animals along with their names and where the can be found in the world. There are also notes from the photographer and the author along with an explanation of The National Geographic Photo Ark, which is an effort by Sartore to photograph every captive species to inspire people to save those most vulnerable.

Photo Ark ABC is deserves a long-term spot on the bookshelf, where it can be easily accessed for reading again and again and again.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Kid on the Go! by Neill McKee

Kid on the Go cover image

Born shortly after World War II ended, Neill McKee grew up during the 1950s and 60s in Elmira, a small town in Ontario where his father and uncle owned a farm equipment business. Given lots of freedom to roam, Neill and his siblings, cousins, and friends had many adventures, some that would certainly make a protective parent cringe. In Kid on the Go! Memoir of My Childhood and Youth, McKee tells gives an interesting, often humorous, account of those days.

The story also offers a glimpse of what life in general was like in his hometown, which melded Mennonite farms, a slaughterhouse, and a chemical factory that manufactured DDT. His first chapter gives a tongue-in-cheek account of all the interesting odors that emanated from each of the key industries and how town residents could tell which direction the wind was blowing.

Neill McKee

Throughout the story we see McKee’s world through the lens of the child who lived it, with some commentary on how his perspective changed over the years. Readers will also note how society in general has changed since the middle of the last century.

With illustrations and photos by the author, Kid on the Go! makes for an interesting read for those aged 16 and up.

P.S. I’m part of a blog tour for the release of the book. You can find an interview with the author as well as much more info about him and the other stops on the tour by visiting Wow! Women On Writing.

The author provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: The Lost Language by Claudia Mills

The Lost Language cover image

Betsy and Liz dub themselves Bumble and Lizard when they become friends in elementary school. And they stay fast friends, a fact Betsy’s mom is not thrilled about, as she worries that Betsy lets Liz have too much control over the relationship. Despite challenges from both their families, they are in a comfortable place in their friendship when they start middle school.

But a crack erupts when Betsy’s mom doesn’t get a grant to continue her research into dying languages. Lizard gets the idea to help by choosing one language in the world on the list of those dying and learning to speak it with Betsy and others. When Betsy’s mom finds out she gets angry, and a spiraling series of events threatens the two girls’ happiness.

The Lost Language by Claudia Mills delves into tough issues difficult to face—loss of trust for parents and friends, betrayal, attempted suicide— and presents them honestly and with compassion that values very different types of people and their emotions. Told in free verse, the book strips language down to the core of what Betsy feels and how she reacts to the circumstances that upend her life. Readers also get an intimate look at how she processes emotions and develops the strength to clearly state what she feels and what she needs from the people she most cares about.

While it deals with dire issues, The Lost Language is ultimately a hopeful story. I highly recommend it for readers aged 10 and up.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: The Happy Writing Book by Elise Valmorbida

The Happy Writing Book cover image

As a writer, I often look to writing advice books for ways to inspire creativity and help me continue to sit down and write on a regular basis. The Happy Writing Book: Discover the Positive Power of Creative Writing by Elise Valmorbida is one of the best books of that type I have read in a while.

First, there’s the cover. The bright orange color with a smiley face illustration (an asterisk for one eye looks like a wink) makes me want to leave it out where I can see it and easily pick it up to read. Also, I took it with me on a few appointments to read while I waited, and every person who saw it commented on how they wanted to read it too. And they weren’t even writers! Sometimes, the biggest challenge in looking at an advice book is being inspired to open it, and The Happy Writing Book is definitely compelling.

But the real value is in the content. The book is divided into sections titled, Happy Beginnings, Happy Middles, and Happy Ends. The sections contain 100 micro-chapters laying out tips, suggestions, and ideas to help writers get started, hone their craft, and keep writing. I found myself reading through all the way once, and making notes about chapters I want to go back and revisit to try the suggested exercises. The list is long.

Now that I’ve finished a first reading, I have started to go back and look at certain areas more closely. I also can easily see picking the book up and opening to a random page to get re-inspired at any point and jump start a piece of writing.

I recommend The Happy Writing Book for any writer or anyone who wants to write aged 12 and up.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

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