In her first children's book, Dean takes a reportorial approach to the Althea Gibson story and strives to give readers a sense of how the tennis star's extraordinary accomplishments fit within the context of segregated America and the white world of professional tennis. Unfortunately, her ambitious, sweeping approach drains this biography of much of its humanity and particularity. The prose, too, can distance readers: "She became a curiosity to many spectators and officials," reads a typical passage. "Some objected to her participation and doubted that she was any good." Many of Brown's (My Family Plays Music) highly stylized pictures, which combine cut paper with other media, have the verve of an urban street mural and give the book visual oomph. But only one spread, which employs a multiple-exposure effect, imparts a sense of Gibson's athletic power. Elsewhere, static, mask-like portraits keep Gibson a remote figure, never suggesting the drive or exuberance for which Deans celebrates her. Ages 4-8. (Aug.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Playing to Win: The Story of Althea Gibsonby Karen Deans, Elbrite Brown
Playing to Win: The Story of Althea Gibson commemorates the achievements of a remarkable female role model, as well as a courageous and significant African American woman who broke down racial barriers and opened the doors of the white world of professional tennis to future African American tennis champions. Karen Deans, an accomplished tennis
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Playing to Win: The Story of Althea Gibson commemorates the achievements of a remarkable female role model, as well as a courageous and significant African American woman who broke down racial barriers and opened the doors of the white world of professional tennis to future African American tennis champions. Karen Deans, an accomplished tennis player herself, is a fresh new voice in children's books. She has written an informative and timely text about a woman who went from growing up poor in Harlem to becoming a world-famous tennis star in the 1950s.
After winning the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent for My Family Plays Music (Holiday House, 2002), Elbrite Brown comes back with a stunning dramatic style that breathes life into Deans' captivating and inspiring story. His vibrant, energetic illustrations move the reader across each page and on to the next, offering a courtside view of Althea Gibson's exciting accomplishments.
Not only was Gibson a record-breaking tennis player, but she also played an important role in breaking down racial barriers. As a child of poor sharecroppers in the volatile South, life was full of hardships, which resulted in her being sent off to live with an aunt in New York City and then to another aunt in Philadelphia. When she was nine, the family was reunited in Harlem where young Althea grew to be as tough as nails. Amazingly, she channeled energy from fighting and skipping school to a love of sports for which she had a natural talent. Winning title after title, this amazing athlete rose to fame and proved she was indeed playing to win. For the most part, the multimedia illustrations are well matched to the power and fluidity of the text, particularly in capturing the champion in action. In some spreads, the perspective is awkward, and in a few others, the backgrounds overwhelm the main figures. Overall, though, this well-written and attractive biography will be a popular addition to most collections.
Judy ChichinskiCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Meet the Author
Karen Deans has worked as a journalist and is also a muralist, illustrator, fine artist, and entrepreneur. This is her first book for children. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area with her husband and three children. Surprised when she was unable to find biographies of many of the women she admired to share with her daughter, Karen decided to write one of her own.
Elbrite Brown is an illustrator, fine artist, and high school art teacher whose home is in Pennsylvania. His illustrations for My Family Plays Music by Judy Cox won him a Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent. While doing research on Althea Gibson, he went to tennis matches and studied photographs and videos of the great star in action. He came to feel that Althea Gibson was as graceful as a ballerina and tried to capture just the right sense of movement in this book.
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