She Persisted in Sports: American Olympians Who Changed the Game

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
She Persisted in Sports: American Olympians Who Changed the Game Book Poster Image
Lively stories of girls who broke barriers, smashed records.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Paragraph-long profiles show well-known and little-known American girls and women who made it to the Olympics and won. Many firsts: Golfer Margaret Ives Abbott was first American woman to become an Olympic champion, in 1900. Gertrude Ederle was first woman to swim the English Channel. Sprinter Wilma Rudolph, first to win three gold medals. Wheelchair racer and basketball star Jean Driscoll participated in four Paralympic Games, helped start Ghana's first Paralympic team. Simone Biles was first American gymnast to win a gold medal in every event. Fencing champion Ibtihaj Muhammad was first hijab-wearing Muslim American to win an Olympic medal, in 2016. "She continued to shatter stereotypes when she helped design the first-ever hajib-wearing Barbie modeled on her!" 

Positive Messages

If "someone tells you you can't be an athlete or you'll never make it, don't listen. Focus on your dreams. They persisted and so should you." Each spread has an inspiring quote from the athlete profiled. "You can't win them all" said multi-sport star and golf great Mildred "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias, "but you can try." "Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit ... The potential for greatness lives within each of us," said African American track star Wilma Rudolph, "who used her fame to push for integration in sports and public places and to support Black American women athletes." "Successful people never give up," said wheelchair racer Jean Driscoll.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Every person in this diverse group of champions is a positive role model. Many overcame stereotypes, racism, sexism, childhood illness, disabilities to become Olympian inspirations to others. They show value of hard work, practice, determination, persistence. Various races, cultural heritages, and physical abilities represented. One athlete, who was born with spina bifida, is a wheelchair racer who won five gold medals at the Paralympic Games, part of the Summer Olympics. First woman to swim English Channel was hearing impaired. Fencing star Ibtihaj Muhammad was first hijab-wearing Muslim American to win an Olympic medal.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that She Persisted in Sports: American Olympians Who Changed the Game is the third book in Chelsea Clinton's She Persisted series, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger. One-paragraph mini-bios of well-known athletes like Mia Ham, Kristi Yamaguchi, and Venus and Serena Williams mix with lesser known champions, including a star in the Paralympic Games. The book shows how they overcame challenges -- from childhood illnesses, economic hardship, injuries, and disabilities to racism and sexism -- to achieve greatness. All because they persisted. 

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What's the story?

The opening spread of SHE PERSISTED IN SPORTS: AMERICAN OLYMPIANS WHO CHANGED THE GAME imagines diverse kids exploring a sports museum filled with statues and paintings of female athletes in various sports -- golf, fencing, tennis, ice skating, track, gymnastics, wheelchair racing, and more -- all of which will be featured in the profiles to come. The text explains that it's "not easy to be a girl athlete.  ... These woman athletes made their sports dreams real. They persisted." From there on, the book offers mini-bios of 16 Olympians.

Is it any good?

This inspiring collection of mini-sports bios showcases the Olympic accomplishments of 16 American girls and women from 1900 to the present. The one-paragraph profiles are diverse, concise, lively, and substantial. And Alexandra Boiger's illustrations work perfectly with the text to highlight each athlete's personality, achievements, and historical impact. The clear message to work hard, follow your dreams, and never give up will be easily understood by even the youngest readers. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the athletes who broke barriers who are featured in She Persisted in Sports: American Olympians Who Changed the Game. Which ones had you heard of before? Did you know that some had to fight to be accepted in their sport? 

  • Have you ever been told you can't do something because you're a girl? Why would someone think that? 

  • Have you tried any of the sports mentioned in the book? Which ones do you think you'd like to try? Which ones look like the most fun? Which ones look the hardest?

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For kids who love sports and stories about strong girls

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