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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Queen of the Diamond: The Lizzie Murphy Story. Written and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully. Farrar Straus Giroux, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2015. $19.99 ages 6 and up

"The next day, Lizzie watched a game instead of playing in one. It was strange to sit in the stands. In the fourth inning, a batter hit a weak ball to the third baseman, who dropped it. Lizzie leaped to her feet and nearly ran out onto the field. She loved baseball! She was better than most of the men! How could she give it up?"

I just stopped watching a preseason Jays game to come into the den and tell you about Lizzie Murphy, a young woman who loved everything about baseball. She was very good at playing the game. Her father, a baseball player in his own right, saw that she had a natural, raw talent. Unfortunately, she was born at the turn of the twentieth century when
girls did not play baseball. Still, Lizzie practiced every day with her brother and watched every game that he played.

She did her best to convince her brother's team to let her play. They did give her the job of carrying their bats! When the team needed a baseball in order to get their game started, Lizzie offered her own - only if she could play first base. It didn't take long for the boys to realize what a truly great player Lizzie was:

"At bat, Lizzie hit two doubles, a triple and then a single. Once, she struck out. But that happened in the ninth inning and her team was already ahead 10-0. Lizzie tingled with happiness."

That was all the players needed to know. Lizzie was now welcome to play anytime she chose. Lizzie followed other pursuits; baseball remained top of the list. Years passed and Lizzie realized her dream of playing amateur ball. It was obvious to her mother that Lizzie would have to give up baseball as it would not offer any real means of support for a woman. Despite her well intentioned advice, Lizzie could not just give up the game she loved.

But, signing with a team did not assure a fair shake for a woman wanting to make a living as a player. It took determination and courage to ensure that she was paid as much as every male player. For seventeen years, she had a professional career ... the first woman to play on both major league all-star teams.

Emily Arnold McCully uses watercolors and ink to create bright, realistic scenes from the early twentieth century. In doing so, she provides a history lesson for young baseball fans and extols the talents of a ground-breaking, capable female player.

Back matter includes an author's note and a selection of source material.

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