“An adequate picture book biography that shares tennis champ Althea Gibson’s journey to Wimbledon champion.”
In this biography of tennis champion Althea Gibson, Gibson is a naturally gifted athlete who grows up dominating games of basketball, stickball, and anything else played during the summer recess on the streets of her Harlem neighborhood. Neighbors, recognizing her raw talent, help her join the Cosmopolitan Tennis Club. As she excels at the club, she set her sights on becoming a world champion, but in addition to actually beating opponents, she also has to overcome racial barriers preventing her from competing on the biggest stages against the best players in tennis. With help and support from fellow athletes and journalists who recognize her talent and know she needs to compete at the highest levels, Gibson ultimately is allowed to compete at Wimbledon and becomes the first black person to ever win a Wimbledon championship. In addition to sharing Gibson’s successes, Reid covers some of her faults, like how early in her career her competitiveness led her to actions that did not show good sportsmanship, which helps the authenticity of the biography. Freeman’s (Hidden Figures, illustrator) recognizable style is in full force in the digital illustrations, though her depiction of Gibson seems to vary noticeably between pages, and the page design feels busy. While Reid’s narrative is rough at moments, it commendably brings Gibson’s remarkable and important story to a larger audience.
A spirited picture book biography about Althea Gibson, the first black Wimbledon, French, and U.S. Open tennis champion, from debut author Megan Reid and Coretta Scott King Honor–winning illustrator Laura Freeman.
Althea Gibson was the quickest, tallest, most fearless athlete in 1940s Harlem. She couldn’t sit still! When she put her mind to it, the fleet-of-foot girl reigned supreme at every sport—stickball with the boys, basketball with the girls, paddle tennis with anyone who would hit with her.
But being the quickest, tallest, most fearless player in Harlem wasn’t enough for Althea. She knew she could be a tennis champion.
Because of segregation, black people weren’t allowed to compete against white people in sports. Althea didn’t care. She just wanted to play tennis against the best athletes in the world. And with skill and determination, she did just that, eventually becoming the first black person—man or woman—to win a trophy at Wimbledon.
Althea Gibson: The Story of Tennis’ Fleet-of-Foot Girl chronicles this trailblazing athlete’s journey—and the talent, force of spirit, and energy that made it possible for her to break barriers and ascend to the top of the tennis world.
At first, Althea is very competitive, even to the point of treating her competitors poorly. Later, she learns to be more gracious. What can you do to have a better response to things that disappoint you?
Althea faces unfair challenges as she works to become the best tennis player in the world. But she is determined and continues to work, and others help and support her too. What challenges do you face? How can you overcome them? Who can help you?
Laura Freeman received her BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City and began her career illustrating for various editorial clients. Laura has illustrated many fine children’s books over the years, including Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe, written by Deborah Blumenthal, and the Coretta Scott King Honor book Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race, by Margot Lee Shetterly. Laura now lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and their two children. Find out more about Laura at www.lfreemanart.com.
To my mom, Aunt Carole, and Wendi Gu
To my sister, Roberta
“Readers get to see Gibson’s development from a young athlete, cocksure, assertive, and focused only on winning, to a considerate sportswoman in a league of her own, paving the way for generations of young tennis players coming after her.”