From the moment eight-year-old Aly Raisman saw a tape of the 1996 U.S. Olympic women's gymnastics team winning the gold medal, she was "absolutely convinced that [she] would one day go to the Olympics, too." She understood these were "strong, confident young women--and [she] wanted to be just like them."
Even though young Aly assumed her future was all planned out, she had no idea how tough it would be to accomplish her goals. Aly had already begun taking gymnastics classes, which she loved, and she was prepared to work hard for her dream. She marveled at the "power and coordination" of the more advanced girls and vowed, over and over, to be "as good as they are." Aly enjoyed the challenges and kept moving up to more elite tiers of competition. There were plenty of times that she knew people doubted her--she says "the story of my life in gymnastics is an underdog one." But her love for the sport never wavered and her fierce work ethic meant "she always tried her best... always gave what she had."
Aly's ability to stay the course in the face of negativity is inspiring. Criticism of all kinds, and even sexual abuse at the hands of a team doctor, did not deter her. She has emerged, post-Olympics, as a strong advocate for empowering young women to feel good about themselves, and to speak up, no matter what. Her story is heartfelt and funny, exciting and inspiring. Aly concludes this must-read with "The Fierce Guide to Life," 20-plus encouraging points for her readers to consider. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI