Miss Mary Reporting: The True Story of Sportswriter Mary Garber
Written by Sue Macy and Illustrated by C.F. Payne
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016
“Miss Mary Reporting: The True Story of Sportswriter Mary Garber” is a wonderful picture book biography: well written, engaging and inspiring in its subject. It is the story of Mary Garber, one of the first American female sports reporters.
Mary grew up in the 1920s and ‘30s, first in New Jersey and then in Winston-Salem, N.C. Even though she was a tiny girl, she always loved sports: playing football with the boys, going to football games with her dad and sister, and following boxing, baseball and football in the newspaper.
She graduated from Hollins College, a women’s school in Roanoke, Va., with a degree in philosophy. Then she struggled to find a job as a newspaper reporter, and finally took a post as a society reporter for the Twin City Sentinel, a paper in Winston-Salem. Reporting on the fashionable dresses rich people wore to social events didn’t interest her though.
Mary got her break during World War II when many young men joined the armed forces, leaving women to take over jobs on the home front. After the Sentinel’s last sportswriter joined the navy in 1944, the editor assigned Mary to cover sports.
She continued to write about sports for the Twin City Sentinel, and then its sister paper the Winston-Salem Journal after the Sentinel went out of business in 1985, until she was 86 in 2002, though she officially retired in 1986.
As one of the first woman sports reporters, Mary faced many obstacles, especially in the beginning. In the 1940s, women weren’t allowed to sit in the press box at college games. She had to sit with the coaches’ wives until her editor complained. As a woman, she also wasn’t allowed in the locker room.
When the male reporters interviewed players as they changed into their street clothes, she had to wait outside. It was hard for her to get quotes from the players because they were eager to get home after they left the locker room.
She wrote about Jackie Robinson, who played for the Dodgers as the first black player in major league baseball since the 1880s. Robinson became a role model for her. She felt inspired by how he maintained a quiet dignity despite taunts and jeers from people who couldn’t accept a black man in the major leagues.
Mary’s color blindness came out in her decision to begin covering games at Winston-Salem’s all black schools. At that time, many schools in the South were segregated, with white children attending all-white schools and black children attending all-black schools. When Mary began writing for the sports pages, the Sentinel rarely covered games at the black schools. Mary changed that.
Mary won many awards for her reporting and was voted into sportswriters’ halls of fame. But she said the greatest compliment she ever got happened when she was covering the Soap Box Derby in Winston-Salem. A friend of hers overheard a conversation between two eight- and ten-year-old African-American boys. The older boy pointed to Mary and said, “Do you see that lady down there on the field?” The other boy nodded.
“That’s Miss Mary Garber. And she doesn’t care who you are, or where you’re from, or what you are. If you do something, she’s going to write about you.”
As strong as this book is editorially, it is equally powerful visually. The mixed media illustrations by C.F. Payne compliment the story perfectly. They fill the pages with character and movement, and are well composed for dramatic effect.
With its clear writing, nice use of quotations, and inspiring story, coupled with outstanding artwork, this picture book biography is strongly recommended.
About the Author and Illustrator:
Sue Macy enjoys writing about sports for children. Her latest picture book, “Roller Derby Rivals,” was a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year and was called “a slam bang offering” by Betsy Bird, who writes the blog, “A Fuse 8 Production,” for School Library Journal. Her previous picture book, “Basketball Belles,” was a Booklist Editors’ Choice for 2011. Before turning to full-time writing, Sue was an editor and editorial director at Scholastic. She lives in Englewood, N.J., and her website is suemacy.com.
C.F. Payne is the illustrator of the #1 New York Times bestseller “Mousetronaut” by Mark Kelly and “Mighty Jackie: The Strike-Out Queen” by Ernest Lawrence Thayer, which earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly. He has received great acclaim for his work, including awards from the Society of Illustrators in New York and Los Angeles. C.F. is a professor of distinction in the illustration department at Columbus College of Art and Design. He lives with his family in Lebanon, Ohio, and his website is cfpayne.com.