From the Publisher
Starred Review, School Library Journal, September 2007:
"The prose is rhythmic and has the cadence of the street, and it's a treat to read aloud ... [T]his is an affecting tribute to a great athlete, and a story to both enjoy and inspire."
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, August 27, 2007:
"[A] sharp evocation of her spirited and appealingly pricky personality. Boys and girls of all levels of athleticism will find much inspiration in these pages."
Fifty years ago, in 1957, Althea Gibson became the first African-American to win at Wimbledon and Forest Hills (a feat she repeated in 1958). In rhythmic, conversational prose and vibrantly impressionistic pictures (rendered with a combination of digital imaging and acrylics), Stauffacher (Bessie Smith and the Night Riders) and Couch (Wild Child) brilliantly capture Gibson's trajectory from feisty, undisciplined tomboy to poised champion. Stauffacher appreciates that flawed heroes are the most interesting (they also make for eye-catching titles): "It took time, a good long time, but slowly Althea learned that wanting to slug her opponent as soon as she started losing her match made her a worse tennis player than if she kept her cool.... Althea realized she could dress up in white and act like a lady, and still beat the liver and lights out of the ball." Stauffacher also skillfully handles the many supporting players in Gibson's life; her discussion of Buddy Walker, who first put a tennis racket in Gibson's hand, deepens the narrative and beautifully conveys how the giftedness of one individual can inspire generosity in others. Couch is a terrific match for the author, partnering her plainspoken text with vivid visual lyricism. In one of the most interesting elements in his consistently stunning compositions, a delicate but dynamic rainbow aura swirls around Althea wherever she goes; it's a sharp evocation of her spirited and appealingly prickly personality. Boys and girls of all levels of athleticism will find much inspiration in these pages. Ages 5-8. (Aug.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Augusta Scattergood
From the endpapers to the author's note, every word of this oversized picture book begs to be read, and read again. On the first page we learn that Althea Gibson "was the tallest, wildest tomboy in the history of Harlem." With the exception of the pictures of a defiant Althea being told how to act at the fancy Cosmopolitan Tennis Club where she was offered free lessons, the young girl's joy jumps out from every one of Couch's vibrant illustrations. Yellow tennis balls adorn the back of this book to cleverly mark milestones in the player's life, including the year she graduated from college and her major tennis victories. In the author's note, Stauffacher explains that Gibson's most insidious foe was racism. Called the "Jackie Robinson of tennis," her accomplishments were tremendous. At last, the life and journey of the first African American to compete for and win the Wimbledon Cup is celebrated in a book this accessible. Kudos to Sue Stauffacher for finding Althea Gibson's autobiography and writing so inspirationally for young readers.
School Library Journal
"Althea Gibson was the tallest, wildest tomboy in the history of Harlem. Everybody said so." How this girl, considered "nothing but trouble," became the first African American to win the Wimbledon Tennis Championship in 1957 is both stylishly and compellingly told in this picture-book biography. From an early age, Gibson's love of sports distracted her from everything else. Buddy Walker, a neighborhood play leader, recognized her ability at street tennis, played with a wooden paddle, and handed Althea her first stringed racket. After considerable practice, he had her play at the Harlem River Tennis Courts, where she attracted the eye of Juan Serrell, a member of the upscale Cosmopolitan Tennis Club. There, assisted by pro Fred Johnson and Rhoda Smith, Gibson's game and deportment improved-though she bristled at the strict rules of behavior. Her eventual victory at Wimbledon is described in both the swinging auctorial voice and the tournament announcers' excited commentary, ending with Gibson's graceful acceptance speech. Couch's kinetic illustrations done in acrylic with digital imaging wonderfully enhance the text. Althea stands out in a blur of color against somber sepia, blue, and olive-drab backgrounds. The prose is rhythmic and has the cadence of the street, and it's a treat to read aloud. Like Katherine Krull's Wilma Unlimited (Harcourt, 1996), this is an affecting tribute to a great athlete, and a story to both enjoy and inspire.
Ann WeltonCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.