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I AM DARN TOUGH by Licia Morelli


by Licia Morelli ; illustrated by Maine Diaz

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-88448-780-7
Publisher: Tilbury House

A runner’s high is an exhilarating mix of relief and tenacity.

Running is largely a solitary and quiet activity, combining muscle memory and mental strength. A race puts this book’s protagonist, who has light-brown skin and straight, black hair in a ponytail, together with other runners; all present female. She lines up at the start, runs at her own pace, and finishes strong. Her friends and teammates, a merry band of casually diverse girls, are supportive, yet the text understands that the girl’s race is hers alone. What Morelli and Diaz do remarkably well is show what the girl thinks about and sees with each step and how that fuels her to keep going and not give up. Diaz’s illustrations prove that anyone who runs has a runner’s body; the stereotypical vision of what a runner looks like is a misconception. In the middle of the book are two illustrations that leave lasting impressions: The first abruptly ends the soft images seen heretofore when the girl falls and scrapes her knee; a stark, almost aggressive smear of blood is rendered with sharp, jagged lines. In the second, the girl breaks the fourth wall and stares out at readers. Her gaze is so straightforward and penetrating that it’s almost startling, yet it feels simultaneously compelling, daring readers to look away first. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 48.6% of actual size.)

A tender introduction to the discipline and community that running provides its athletes.

(Picture book. 5-8)