Book review: Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon, by Annette Bay Pimentel, illustrated by Micha Archer

Pimentel, Annette Bay. Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon. Illus. by Micha Archer. Nancy Paulsen/Penguin, 2018. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-101-99668-3. Ages 5-8. P9Q9

Seventy years after the inception of the Boston Marathon, women were still prevented from participation. When 23-year-old Roberta Louise “Bobbi” Gibb applied to take part, she received a letter stating that “women are not physiologically able to run twenty-six miles and furthermore the rules do not allow it.” She had already spent years training and would not allow herself to be refused. Wearing a hooded sweatshirt, she jumped out of the bushes at the beginning and began the first woman to run the race. Archer’s illustrations of oil paint and collage with tissue paper and hand-stamped patterned papers show Gibb’s hard work as she literally ran across the country, her perseverance running in six Boston marathons before receiving official sanction, the speed of the runners, and encouragement from competitors and observers once they discover that a girl is running the race. The information in the book comes from Gibb, now an artist.

Verdict: Girl Running is a welcome companion to last year’s The Girl Who Ran by Kristina Yee and Frances Poletti, illustrated by Susanna Chapman because of its emphasis on the joy of running and details such as her shoes. Also of interest is the mile markers and elevation indications that demonstrate the runners’ struggles, especially at Heartbreak Hill. Heartwarming and inspirational.

January/February 2018 review by Nel Ward.

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