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Series of the Week: Play Like A Girl by Jo Stanley

September 5, 2017

bring-it-on-“You play like a girl.”

It used to be such a negative phrase. Boys taunting boys. As if playing like a girl was such a bad thing, an indication of them being lesser. Lately, though, playing like a girl has become something to be celebrated, and Jo Stanley’s new series Play Like A Girl celebrates the awesomeness of girls in sport.

Brought to you in partnership with the AFLW (the women’s league of AFL), Jo Stanley has written a trailblazing new series that weaves the ordinary world of young girls with the thrill and excitement of AFLW. The sport genre of middle grade literature isn’t anything new, but so often it is geared towards boys. Stanley has written a funny, action-packed series celebrating the achievements of women in sport, and fostering a love of an active lifestyle for young girls.

Play Like A Girl follows a group of young girls who play for the Flyers, the footy team of Milsborough West – a fictional town in the centre of Melbourne. The Flyers are a diverse group of clever, cheeky, funny, deep thinking, strong and enthusiastic girls, all of whom love their footy, their team, and love being fit and active.

The series begins with the coming together of The Flyers. It’s a group of eighteen girls from different schools, different backgrounds, and different levels of experience. Four of these girls – Sarah, Hanh, Rainbow, and Lucy – become very close very quickly, and the books Bring It On!, Dream Team!, Totally Epic!, and Smashing It! follow their adventures in friendship, footy, and life.

The books are told each from their perspective. What’s wonderful about these books is the diverse sense of personality you get from each girl. What’s even better is Jo Stanley’s acknowledgement of the multicultural lifestyle of Australia. Footy means different things to each of these girls. Stanley explores the idea that sport just isn’t something you do for fitness, it can become a representation of your identity and what matters to you.

Play Like A Girl isn’t just about sport, though. It’s about friendship, belonging, and isolation. Stanley tackles themes of bullying, body image, anxiety, success and failure, and family expectation. Stanley follows these girls as they navigate being eleven and twelve with grace, teaching important lessons about self-acceptance, gS3vLm3VDratitude, kindness, and leadership.

While about AFL, these books aren’t just for fans of sport. Anyone aged eight and up will find something of value in these books, particularly for those who are fans of The Babysitters Club and Go Girl! With Stanley’s comedic background, she’ll have you laughing out loud at certain points. Play Like A Girl is a wonderful addition to any school library, and any parents wanting to encourage their kids to see the value of an active lifestyle.

Jo Stanley is a comedian, writer, actor and presenter. She spent 10 years as one of Melbourne’s most loved breakfast radio entertainers on the Matt and Jo Show on Fox FM, and can now be heard on Gold 104.3’s breakfast show, Jo and Lehmo. Jo appears regularly on all networks of Australian television, on shows such as The Project, The Today Show and Studio 10. She writes for newspapers and magazines around the country, including a regular column in Sunday Life Magazine. Jo began as a stand-up comedian over 20 years ago, and so now uses those skills to bring a unique combination of outstanding professionalism and humour to her work as a presenter. A self-described ‘footy tragic’ and avid Collingwood FC supporter, Play Like A Girl is Jo’s first book series.

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