Venus and Serena Williams. Two peas in a pod. Best friends. Sisters. Six days a week they awoke before the sun came up to practice their serves and returns, to learn to run faster and hit harder. They were unstoppable. At age fourteen, Venus played her first professional match. Three years later, it was Serena’s turn. It wasn’t easy. Some tennis fans cheered for these two fresh faces, while those who were unhappy to see two black girls competing in a nearly all-white sport booed and taunted them. But they didn’t let it stop them. With vibrant mixed media art, nonfiction superstars Lesa Cline-Ransome and Coretta Scott King Honor winner James E. Ransome share the inspirational story of two tennis legends who were fierce competitors on the courts, but close sisters above all.
Venus and Serena Williams are sports icons who set the standard for professional tennis for years. Many biographical picture books are uninteresting and difficult to make it through, but this one was fascinating. I learned so many things about these athletes I had never heard before, and theirs is a story that can be an inspiration. It is definitely long, each page packed full of 2-4 large paragraphs, so young children may have a difficult time staying focused through the story. There is enough interesting detail though, that it’s manageable.
Lesa Cline-Ransome is the author of many books for children, including My Story, My Dance: Robert Battle & Journey to Alvin Ailey, which was an ALA Notable Book, an IRA Notable Book for a Global Society, and an NCTE Orbis Pictus Recommended title for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children; Satchel Paige, an ALA Notable Book and a Top 10 Sports Book for Youth; and Words Set Me Free: The Story of Young Frederick Douglass, which The New York Times Book Review called, “visceral, intimate, and plainly told, this story is sure to move young children, and also motivate them to read more.” Her books were all illustrated by her husband, James E. Ransome. A graduate of the Pratt Institute, she holds a master’s degree in early childhood and elementary education from NYU. She lives with her family in upstate New York. Visit her at LesaClineRansome.com.
James E. Ransome’s highly acclaimed illustrations for Before She Was Harriett received the 2018 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor. His other award-winning titles include Coretta Scott King Honor Book Uncle Jed’s Barbershop; Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt; and Let My People Go, winner of the NAACP Image Award. He frequently collaborates with his wife, author Lesa Cline-Ransome. Some of their titles include Game Changers: The Story of Venus Serena Williams, which received four starred reviews; My Story, My Dance: Robert Battle’s Journey to Alvin Ailey; and Words Set Me Free: The Story of Young Frederick Douglass. Mr. Ransome teaches illustration at Pratt Institute and lives in upstate New York with his family. Visit James at JamesRansome.com.