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Recommended by Melinda at Kendale Lakes Branch

She’s Got This
Written by Laurie Hernandez; illustrated by Nina Mata

She’s Got This Book Cover

Every morning Zoe watches birds leap, dance and fly around the tree by her window, always wishing she could sail through the air with the same ease and grace. Then one day on the news she sees a gymnast soaring and realizes it’s just like flying! Zoe’s parents immediately get her ready for her first gymnastics class. Turning and tumbling are easy, but when Zoe tries to fly, she falls. She falls and then she hurts, both physically and in her heart, and she tells her parents that she never wants to go back. Instead of letting Zoe quit, her family tells her about all the times that they have fallen and gotten back up. They even celebrate her first fall, with Zoe’s mom saying she must try again. So Zoe goes back. And even though she sometimes still falls, she is determined to keep getting back up until she is ready to fly.

Laurie Hernandez, an Olympic gold medalist in gymnastics, writes a sweet story about a young girl wanting to fly and becoming a gymnast. Zoe learns that if you fall, you should always get up and keep going; Hernandez includes an inspirational letter at the end of the book to reinforce this lesson. Nina Mata fills the pages with bright, joyous illustrations that reflect Zoe’s exuberance at the thought of flying like the little birds outside her window. The characters seem ready to jump off the page; all their emotions shine through. Backgrounds become minimalist when they aren’t needed to carry the story, allowing Zoe to take center stage.

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The Quickest Kid in Clarksville
Written by Pat Zietlow Miller; illustrated by Frank Morrison

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville Book Cover

Alta is hanging out in her neighborhood with her friends Dee‑Dee and Little Mo. She is running in place pretending that she is Wilma Rudolph, hometown hero, the fastest woman in the world. When new girl Charmaine shows up, flaunting her just‑like‑Wilma‑Rudolph shoes, Alta proudly declares herself the quickest kid in town. The two young runners challenge each other to a race, with Alta easily winning round one, but Charmaine taking round two. Alta, damaging her already worn‑out shoes, slinks home. On the day of Wilma Rudolph’s victory parade, Alta, Dee‑Dee and Little Mo are finishing their parade banner when Charmaine walks by. As Alta heads toward the festivities, the large banner makes it hard to walk. Charmaine reminds her of Rudolph’s relay race and suddenly all four girls are on the run to the parade, each taking turns carrying the sign, thoughts of their differences left far behind. They consider themselves the quickest kids in Clarksville.

Pat Zietlow Miller spins her story around the real‑life victory parade for Wilma Rudolph that took place in Clarksville, Tennessee. Her story about two girls seeing themselves as rivals who learn to work together is moving and full of lessons on cooperation. Frank Morrison’s illustrations accurately convey the feeling etched across the faces of the girls. You clearly see their effort, pride and sorrow after failure, although the physical actions that accompany them are only implied. The same can be found in some of the backgrounds, with the parade crowd full of detailed faces and suggested movement.

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Violet the Pilot
Written and illustrated by Steve Breen

Violet the Pilot Book Cover

Violet Van Winkle is different from other girls. Instead of dolls and tea sets, she plays with monkey wrenches and needle‑nose pliers. A mechanical genius, Violet has the most fun when she’s tinkering, and especially when she’s building her flying machines; over the years, she has made dozens. At school, Violet is the butt of many jokes, because of her unusual books and clothes, but she can’t help it if no one else wears overalls to school. One day, Violet sees a flyer for an air show, and thinks that if her homemade plane can win a prize, maybe the kids at school will be nicer to her. She spends the next few days building her newest flying machine, the Hornet. On the day of the air show, Violet is on her way to the opening event when she spots a troop of Boy Scouts in trouble. By the time her rescue is complete, the air show is over, and Violet sadly heads home after missing her chance. But later that night, many of the folks in town—including several schoolmates—show up at Violet’s house to declare her a hero. From that day forward, no one can keep her out of the sky.

Steve Breen writes a marvelous story about a girl who will not give up what makes her happy, even though it makes her different. His depictions of Violet’s flying machines are well done and one of a kind. Violet’s feelings—and that of the kids who taunt her—are descriptive and realistic. The detail and creativity of the junkyard materials used to create the flying machines are unique, and the soft backgrounds provide maximum storytelling ability. It really feels like you can jump right onto Violet’s flight.

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The Paper Bag Princess
Written by Robert Munsch; illustrated by Michael Martchenko

The Paper Bag Princess Book Cover

Elizabeth is a beautiful princess who lives in a castle and will marry a handsome prince named Ronald. That is, until a dragon comes along and destroys Elizabeth’s castle and everything she has—and steals her prince away! Left with nothing but a paper bag to wear, Elizabeth decides to chase the dragon down to get back her prince. She follows the dragon's path of destruction to his cave. When the dragon opens the door, she tricks him into tiring himself out so that she can sneak past him to rescue the prince. But instead of being grateful, Prince Ronald complains that she has not bathed and is not dressed like a princess. Elizabeth simply turns around and leaves him behind as she runs off into the sunset, freeing herself from a very bad match indeed.

Robert Munsch tells the story of a remarkable princess, who this time saves the prince. Elizabeth’s devious requests for the dragon to show off leave him exhausted and her the chance to rescue Ronald. However, when her prince insults her appearance, she realizes she is better off without him. Michael Martchenko uses classic illustration style to make this story jump off the page and express the emotional range of the characters. Colors are muted shades that repeat throughout, and lines are used to create depth and motion.

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Keep Climbing, Girls
Written by Beah E. Richards; illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Keep Climbing, Girls Book Cover

An unnamed girl climbs a tree, ignoring Miss Nettie when she calls her back. She continues to climb, ambitiously reaching for the top, even when faced with Miss Nettie’s words, meant to shame her. She cannot let anything dim her adventurous spirit, her journey, her climb.

Beah E. Richards’s poem implores girls to keep climbing, climbing up the tree of life. To not let people stop you from achieving. To ignore words meant to trap you in a more familiar role and to strive to climb unchecked. R. Gregory Christie’s illustrations give the tree more height and more challenge as our unnamed girl climbs higher. Miss Nettie is drawn with the incredulous, shaming emotions necessary to provide the fire our girl needs to overcome Miss Nettie's disapproval and reach her goal. The joy she finds in climbing and in her triumph is evident.

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