Review of Play like a Girl: A Graphic Memoir

Play like a Girl: A Graphic Memoir
by Misty Wilson; illus. by David Wilson
Intermediate, Middle School     HarperAlley/Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins    272 pp.    g
9/22     978-0-06-306469-0     $22.99
Paper ed.  978-0-06-306468-3    $12.99

In this engaging graphic memoir, protagonist Misty is a fierce competitor who loves football: it combines strategy, teamwork, and tackling (“In other sports, I get in trouble for barely touching people!”). So when she finds out the summer before seventh grade that there’s a town youth football league, she signs up. She persuades her best (and only) friend, Bree, to sign up with her; but as Misty throws herself into conditioning and acquiring skills despite the scorn of her male teammates, it soon becomes clear that Bree is more interested in clothes, hanging out at the pool, and a new friendship with a cool, popular girl. Misty’s coach’s statement that “football is all about getting knocked down and getting back up again” serves as the central metaphor for the book as middle school brings the pain of Bree’s betrayal, the humiliation of trying unsuccessfully to fit in, and an imposed-from-without dissatisfaction with her appearance, among other challenges. Cleanly laid-out panels make for accessible reading, and the book does an excellent job of folding the football story line (including plenty of play-by-play game-time action) into that of Misty’s life struggles. Readers will cheer as Misty eventually makes new, true friends; wins the acceptance of (most of) her football teammates; begins to take on a more responsible role in her family; and comes to an empowering conclusion: “I knew one thing for sure: I was done trying to be someone else.” Appended with an author’s note and a disclaimer about the dangers of playing tackle football.

From the September/October 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Martha V. Parravano

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

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