Review of Her Fearless Run: Kathrine Switzer's Historic Boston Marathon

Her Fearless Run: Kathrine Switzer’s Historic Boston Marathon
by Kim Chaffee; illus. by Ellen Rooney
Primary    Page Street    40 pp.
4/19    978-1-62414-654-1    $17.99

This stirring picture-book biography introduces Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon with an official race number. “Running was magic” to twelve-year-old Kathrine, but her backyard laps, tallied with chalk marks on a tree, drew attention: “The mailman stared. The milkman asked if she was okay. Because in 1959, it was strange to see a girl running.” As a student, first at Lynchburg College and then at Syracuse University, Switzer ran with the men’s team because there wasn’t one for women. In 1967, as she competed in the Boston Marathon (having registered as “K. V. Switzer”), officials tried to block her path and rip her race number from her shirt. But she evaded the men and dashed away, determined to show that “women deserve to run too.” Chaffee deftly provides historical context for her audience. She also repeats the sound of running feet (“Pat, Pat, Pat”) throughout the text — cleverly setting the pace and building momentum. Rooney’s mixed-media collage illustrations add emotional depth and use perspective to good effect, focusing closely, for example, on Switzer’s hand as she cuts open her sneakers to make room for her swollen toes. An author’s note with further biographical details, a brief “Women and the Boston Marathon” section, and a bibliography are appended. Pair this story of determination and persistence with Pimentel’s Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon (rev. 3/18).

From the November/December 2019 Horn Book Magazine.

Tanya D. Auger

Tanya D. Auger
Tanya D. Auger is a former middle school teacher with a master’s degree in learning and teaching from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

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