Gabby Garcia's Ultimate Playbook: Gabby Garcia, Book 1

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Gabby Garcia's Ultimate Playbook: Gabby Garcia, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Goal-focused Latina scores big hit in series opener.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational value

Explains some sports terms, including "mulligan" and "small ball." Discusses some forms of poetry, including haiku and iambic pentameter, as well as literary techniques, and references a slew of poets including Emily Dickinson and e.e. cummings. Demonstrates strategies for self-reflection and self-improvement.

Positive messages

The lessons you learn best aren't always the ones you were pursuing. Small, measured steps can be more effective than big, showy moves. Saying what you want isn't showing weakness. When you keep running into roadblocks reaching a goal, it's worth stepping back to reconsider whether you're going after the right goal. It's more important to be true to yourself -- and your friends -- than to be perfect. Everyone gets nervous and frustrated, but you can train yourself to cope and do your best. Being a strong part of a team requires keeping your ego in check.

Positive role models & representations

Gabby is goal-oriented and hardworking, actively using her playbook to try to make measurable improvements in her life. Her friends, old and new, are caring and supportive: They embrace her with enthusiasm and are willing to accept a sincere apology and effort to make amends. Gabby's family is close and caring, and she appreciates those strong relationships.

Violence & scariness

Child gets bloody nose during sports practice. Students exclude classmate.

Language

Classmates call girl "Gaggy" and say she's a jinx.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Iva-Marie Palmer's Gabby Garcia's Ultimate Playbook is a strong start to a series about a talented Latina pitcher who loves baseball -- but it's very accessible to readers who don't know the first thing about sports. Gabby explains enough about baseball, field hockey, and what makes her sports heroes so remarkable that readers quickly learn all they need to know to appreciate her passion. The playbook format -- each day, Gabby records a goal, lays out her strategy, and then returns for a "post-day analysis" to figure out what worked and what didn't -- is an inspiring template for young kids to follow. Gabby's a likable narrator, and her heart is in the right place even when she's acting insufferably cocky.

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What's the story?

GABBY GARCIA'S ULTIMATE PLAYBOOK is not a diary, she emphasizes: It's her evolving strategy for how to win at life. And she needs it after an asbestos discovery abruptly shuts down her school just as she's this close to pitching a perfect game. Gabby, 12, is sure her new school will be thrilled to have her shine on their baseball team. But the team is already pretty good, and Gabby doesn't get the wild reception she expects. Each day, she lays out a goal and a plan to rack up some wins in her new school, and then reviews how it went. The losses keep stacking up, to the point where Gabby wonders if it's time to walk away from baseball -- or reconsider what winning really means.

Is it any good?

It's rare for a sports-themed book to hold broad appeal, but Iva-Marie Palmer deserves a trophy for serving up an engaging, relatable story about a Latina athlete that even gym-phobic kids can enjoy. Gabby Garcia's Ultimate Playbook celebrates talent of all kinds, and the passion and work that goes in to honing talent into skill. Kids will appreciate Gabby's confidence -- she's good, and she knows it -- but also recognize how easily self-assurance veers into obnoxious self-interest. Marta Kissi's artwork, a mix of illustrations and funny doodles, cheerfully riffs off Gabby's wandering imagination.

Predictably, Gabby gets a richer understanding of what it means to be a teammate, but her journey to that point is funny and charming. Everyone endures a losing streak now and then, and Gabby's playbook is a helpful idea starter for readers who might want to try her approach to self-improvement.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the format of Gabby Garcia's Ultimate Playbook. How does it compare with a typical diary?

  • This book uses a diary setup similar to the popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries series. What's appealing about this approach? When does it work better than a more conventional novel?

  • Have you ever written goals and strategies to achieve them as Gabby does? Try writing your own playbook.

Book details

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For kids who love strong girls and Latino stories

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