Babe Didrikson Zaharias: The Making of a Champion

Overview

“Befitting a champion.”—School Library Journal, starred review

Babe Didrikson Zaharias was one of history's greatest athletes as an All-American basketball player, an Olympic gold medalist in track and field, and a championship golfer who won eighty-two amateur and professional tournaments. She was elected Woman Athlete of the Year six times, and in 1950 was named Woman Athlete of the Half Century. This insightful and well-researched biography from ...

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Overview

“Befitting a champion.”—School Library Journal, starred review

Babe Didrikson Zaharias was one of history's greatest athletes as an All-American basketball player, an Olympic gold medalist in track and field, and a championship golfer who won eighty-two amateur and professional tournaments. She was elected Woman Athlete of the Year six times, and in 1950 was named Woman Athlete of the Half Century. This insightful and well-researched biography from a Newbery medalist brings to life the woman who changed the perception of female athletes forever.

A biography of Babe Didrikson, who broke records in golf, track and field, and other sports, at a time when there were few opportunities for female athletes.

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Editorial Reviews

Horn Book
Young Adult
Freedman's measured yet lively style captures the spirit of the great athlete, who seemed able to master any sport she chose. The book is at its best in the chapters about Babe's track-and-field triumphs; the later account of her golf career drags a bit. Aside from the odd silence regarding Babe's lesbianism mention of which is relegated to an after-word, and there coyly, what's missing is a strong enough context to give today's young readers most of whom will know Babe only as a name-if that a sense of how this athlete's place in history goes beyond the playing field. Alone, though, her records are staggering, and Freedman's enthusiastic admiration provides enough reason to read. Plenty of black-and-white photos capture Babe's spirit and dashing good looks; the documentation-notes, bibliography, index-is impeccable. r.s.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In another exemplary biography, Newbery Medalist Freedman (Martha Graham) turns to Mildred "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias (1911-1956), arguably the preeminent woman athlete of the 20th century. He pays ample attention to Babe's extraordinary achievements--e.g., her three world records in track and field at the 1932 Olympics; her record-setting golf career in the '40s and '50s--but his book's greatest strength lies in his portrait of the person behind the athlete, a portrait that hums with the energy and vibrancy of Babe herself. A bold tomboy Texan from a poor family, Babe saw sports as a way to earn recognition, respect and a living, something almost unheard of for a woman at the time. Using quotations from friends, rivals and Zaharias herself, as well as a bounty of period photographs, Freedman brings her irrepressible personality leaping from the page. At a golf championship in Scotland, she egged on the polite and quiet crowd to cheer for her; playing a bit part in the movie Pat and Mike, she obliged the screenwriters to change the script so she wouldn't have to lose to the Katharine Hepburn character. Freedman tiptoes around the issue of Zaharias's sexuality, especially when describing her troubled marriage to a former wrestler and her close association with another female athlete. By paying attention, however, to the times in which she lived, Freedman demonstrates Zaharias's role as a challenger not only of sporting records, but of cultural assumptions about class and gender as well. This celebratory work gives readers a chance to cheer Zaharias's legendary life. Ages 10-up. (Aug.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
It's not Babe Ruth, but Babe Didrikson Zaharias--the greatest woman athlete of all time. Few men, if any, have ever bested her feats in sports from track and field to golf. Babe broke barriers for women. Contrary to Aver Brundage's belief that women had no place in sports, Babe proved that women could sweat, succeed, set new records and still enjoy dancing at night. Freedman presents Babe as a complete and complex person. Terrific photos show her in action. She was a one-woman team! If Babe is the tops in sports, Freedman holds that same honor in the field of photobiography. His books are "must reads" for all ages.
Children's Literature - Children's Literature
Russell Freedman rarely writes a biography without receiving accolades. His latest is the story of the fourth of seven children born to poor Swedish immigrants, and it seems Babe's life was set up for struggle. During her life she fought poverty, gender stereotyping, the world's confusion at a female athlete whose passion for, and skill at sports crossed boundaries, until she met her final contender--cancer. Freedman does an excellent job of surrounding Babe in historical and personal context so her individualistic and sometimes apparently self-proud persona makes total sense. The book is filled with wonderful photographs, pithy quotations, and the depth of research and understanding for which Freeman is deservedly esteemed. 2000, Clarion, Ages 9 up, $18.00. Reviewer: Susie Wilde
Children's Literature - Dr. Judy Rowen
Born into a large Norwegian immigrant family in Texas, Mildred "Babe" Didrikson went on to become a fabulous athlete, selected as the best female athlete of the first half of this century. She was determined and disciplined. If Babe decided to participate in a sport, she persevered until she was the best. She won Olympic gold in track and field, played organized basketball, and helped form the Ladies' Professional Golf Association. Once she was diagnosed and treated for colon cancer, Babe became an ardent spokesperson for fundraising efforts. Her life constantly tested boundaries: the limits of athletic performance, constraints on female athletes, and the social taboo against discussing cancer in public. She was brash and confident, characteristics that were unexpected in women of her time. Russell Freedman obviously developed great respect and admiration for the subject of this biography and invites us to join him in enjoying this fascinating woman. Copious photographs support the text; an annotated bibliography and index are included.
Library Journal
Gr 5 Up-An insightful look at an athlete with exceptional natural ability and the personal drive to dodge convention and aspire to greatness. Animated writing and action photographs capture the energy and indomitable spirit of a true champion. (July) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 5 Up-Freedman is on top of his game with this engaging profile of one of this century's most remarkable athletes and larger-than-life personalities. The Michael Jordan of her day, Didrikson not only excelled at every sport she tried, but she also became a darling of the media. This attractive, oversized photo-biography recounts her life story and sets it into the larger context of the evolving role of women's athletics, and the development of professional sports in the U.S. The account could have been overwhelmed with statistics-Didrikson was responsible for the rewriting of the record books (several times over) and was, more than once, the impetus behind the reworking of the rules. However, the narrative transcends her various fields of play and is essentially a powerful personal story. Freedman delves into the psyche of the fierce competitor, whose natural abilities belied her single-minded drive and obsessive training regimes, and enlivens the text with quotes by the charismatic sports star and many other primary sources. The book includes a wonderful array of black-and-white photos that reveal much about the public and private Didrikson-her agile grace, her intense concentration, and her love of the limelight-even in the face of tragedy. Befitting a champion, this superbly crafted, impeccably documented biography ranks head and shoulders above its peers.-Luann Toth, School Library Journal Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The best athlete of the 20th century may have been Babe Didrickson Zaharias, who appears in a vibrant biography that crushes any remaining myths about women in sports. Freedman (Martha Graham, 1998, etc.) makes clear that almost from Babe's birth in 1911, in an era in which women were barely accepted in sports, she displayed phenomenal athletic ability and determination to become a champion in every sport she played. She was so consumed by sports that she played baseball with boys who were glad to have her, and went on to win two gold medals and one silver medal at the 1932 Olympics, a performance that brought her a enduring national celebrity. Her colorful personality lights up the narrative at every turn and in every story, e.g., after fighting for the right to play golf against socialites who didn't want her, she became, arguably, the best golfer who ever lived. Even with her natural ability Babe still trained at an almost inhuman level. Her insistence on victory was matched by a love of life that sparkles through the book; her story, as told by Freedman and supported by a profusion of black-and-white photographs, leaves readers wondering what she could have done in a less restrictive era and who will follow in the path she blazed. (notes, bibliography, index) (Biography. 10+)
From the Publisher
"engaging profile...Befitting a champion, this superbly crafted, impeccably documented biography ranks head and shoulders above its peers." School Library Journal, Starred

The best athlete of the 20th century may have been Babe Didrickson Zaharias, who appears in a vibrant biography that crushes any remaining myths about women in sports. Freedman (Martha Graham, 1998, etc.) makes clear that almost from Babe's birth in 1911, in an era in which women were barely accepted in sports, she displayed phenomenal athletic ability and determination to become a champion in every sport she played. She was so consumed by sports that she played baseball with boys who were glad to have her, and went on to win two gold medals and one silver medal at the 1932 Olympics, a performance that brought her a enduring national celebrity. Her colorful personality lights up the narrative at every turn and in every story, e.g., after fighting for the right to play golf against socialites who didn't want her, she became, arguably, the best golfer who ever lived. Even with her natural ability Babe still trained at an almost inhuman level. Her insistence on victory was matched by a love of life that sparkles through the book; her story, as told by Freedman and supported by a profusion of black-and-white photographs, leaves readers wondering what she could have done in a less restrictive era and who will follow in the path she blazed. Kirkus Reviews

"Freedman is an expert biographer whose work should be purchased by all young adult collections." VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780544104914
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 1/7/2014
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 987,913
  • Product dimensions: 12.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Russell Freedman has received nearly every children's literature award, including the Newbery Medal, several Newbery Honors, and the Sibert Medal, as well as a National Humanities Medal and the May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award. He lives in New York City and travels widely to research his books.

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