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Review of Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon

Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon
by Annette Bay Pimentel; illus. by Micha Archer
Primary    Paulsen/Penguin    32 pp.    g
2/18    978-1-101-99668-3    $17.99

“Bobbi Gibb must wear a skirt to school because she is a girl. She is not allowed to run on the school’s track team. Because those are the rules — and rules are rules.” This picture-book biography of the first woman to run the Boston Marathon — in defiance of the rules, since she was denied an application due to gender — is short on specifics (dates, ages, etc.) but clear on Gibb’s determination to overcome discrimination in order to follow her passion. We follow Bobbi as he runs for pure pleasure as a child, sees her first Boston Marathon at some point, and then begins to train in earnest as a young adult. When her marathon application is dismissed, she joins the race anyway, wearing a bulky hoodie as a disguise. She crosses the finish line ahead of two-thirds of the pack, but officials refuse to recognize her achievement. Pimentel’s straightforward text builds drama and suspense, becoming appropriately staccato and urgent when describing the race (“Nineteen miles. Twenty miles. Up Heartbreak Hill. Bobbi feels confident”). Archer’s vibrant mixed-media and collage art portrays a variety of settings, seasons, and situations; a nice touch is the bottom-of-the-page border marking the miles as we follow Bobbi’s progress along the marathon route. Back matter includes an author’s note (which finally informs readers that Gibb ran her stealth marathon in 1966) and a brief bibliography.

From the March/April 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Martha V. Parravano About Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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