Girls Leadership Book Club: Claudia Mills, Iva-Marie Palmer, Jason Reynolds

First, welcome to the fourth year of Girls Leadership Girl & Grown-Up Book Club! It’s exciting to have the opportunity to connect communities through talking about books and life. Whether you’re here for the first time or the fourth (or anything in between): Welcome!

This month our clubs will read and discuss books about girls who love sports, who view the world as their field, who go to bed dreaming about finish lines, and whose first thought in the morning is: When can I play?

Not a member yet? Sign up for our Girl & Grown-up Book Club. It’s FREE! Get toolkits with meeting guides and discussion questions for all previous years delivered right to your inbox, instantly. Toolkits for this year’s books will be emailed each month.

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Here at Girls Leadership, we feel strongly about girls playing sports, because we feel strongly about girls fulfilling their potential. A 2015 study from the Women’s Sports Foundation called “Her Life Depends Upon It” identified important benefits from regular exercise, including lower likelihood of using illegal drugs, lower rates of depression, more success in school, and fewer cases of breast cancer. But the benefits of playing a team sport go far beyond those of simply visiting the gym.

As the TedEd video “How Playing Sports Benefits Your Body… and Brain” explains, people who play on a sports team develop bonds with their teammates, learn to work together, and encourage each other to persevere. Team athletes also develop a growth mindset when they improve a skill through practice. This ability to work hard in order to get better at something transfers to challenges and activities off the field, too. And, members of a team learn resilience in the face of disappointing losses.

So, if playing a sport is so good for our bodies and minds, why do girls drop out of athletics program twice as often as boys once kids reach 14? The Women’s Sports Foundation identified several reasons, including lack of access to programs, the social stigma associated with athletics as girls get older, and the lack of positive role models “Do You Know the Factors Influencing Girls’ Participation in Sports?

Knowing the many ways activity can benefit our girls, we felt we had to do something to encourage girls to stay in the game. Will you get on board with us? Will you help to advocate for girls’ activity programs in your schools and communities? Will you celebrate female athletes’ successes? And will you encourage the girls in your lives to pursue sports and activities as a way to stay healthy, have fun, and develop strength and resilience?

October’s books feature active characters, but they aren’t just for active readers (any more than books about magic are only for wizards). We hope that athletic girls will see their own sports enthusiasm reflected in these pages, and girls who don’t play sports or participate in activities might be inspired to give it a try. We hope you love these books. Happy reading!

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2nd/3rd Grades

Izzy Barr, Running Star by Claudia Mills

Buy or borrow a copy of this book and read it before your next book club meeting.

About the book
3rd grade Izzy loves sports, especially running. This year she’s excited to participate in the town’s Memorial Day race. She’s got a real shot at winning, and she’d love for her family and friends to cheer her on as she crosses the finish line. The problem is, her dad usually attends her older brother’s sports events instead of hers. Now she has to figure out a way to let her dad know how much his presence at the race would mean to her.

Published in 2015, Izzy Barr, Running Star is one of the books in the Franklin School Friends series.

About the author
Claudia Mills writes several series for young readers. She lives in Boulder, Colorado where she works as professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder. On her website, she says that writing “is the special, secret work that I love best. I write early in the morning, while the rest of my family is still sound asleep. I lie on the couch upstairs, with a mug of Earl Grey tea or hot chocolate beside me, and scribble away with my favorite felt-tipped pen on a narrow-ruled pad, as I watch the rising sun cast a rosy glow on the Rocky Mountains beyond my home.” Find out more about Claudia Mills at


4th/5th Grades

Gabby Garcia’s Ultimate Playbook by Iva-Marie Palmer

Buy or borrow a copy of this book and read it before your next book club meeting.

About the book
Gabby is the star pitcher on her middle school’s baseball team, so when she has to transfer to a nearby school, she expects the coach and team to fall over themselves asking her to join. When they don’t, and her first efforts at impressing the team don’t go very well, Gabby quits and joins a group of students planning to compete in a talent show. Although she makes friends, she never stops longing for another chance on the pitcher’s mound. To get one, she’ll have to learn that even a star pitcher has to be a supportive team member.

Gabby Garcia’s Ultimate Playbook was published in 2017. Kirkus called it “hilarious and joyful.” The sequel Gabby Garcia’s Ultimate Summer #2: MVP Summer was published in May 2018.

About the author
Iva-Maria Palmer grew up in the Chicago area, and now lives in Los Angeles with her family. She writes novels for teenage and middle-grade readers. Learn more about Iva-Marie Palmer at


6th/7th/8th Grades

Patina by Jason Reynolds

Buy or borrow a copy of this book and read it before your next book club meeting.

About the book
Lots of things have changed in Patina’s life: her father has passed away, her mother’s diabetes has gotten worse, and now she and her sister are living with her aunt and uncle and going to a new school. Running track has always been the constant in her life, and now is no different. Running gives her a focus, a welcome distraction, and the satisfaction of doing well. But, when the race doesn’t go her way, will she get over her frustration so she can be there for her teammates?

Patina, the second book in the “Track” series, was published in 2017. It received starred reviews from School Library Journal and Kirkus, and was named a Notable Children’s Book by the New York Times.

About the author
Jason Reynolds writes books for teen and middle grade readers. His book Long Way Down earned many awards and honors, including nominations for the Newbery Medal, the Michael L. Printz Award and the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. The fourth and final book in the “Track” series, Lu, will be released in October 2018. He currently lives in Brooklyn, NY. Learn more about Jason Reynolds at


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