Game, Set, Match: Tennis Superstars | Elementary non-fiction

These captivating picture book biographies highlight two influential black tennis players: Althea Gibson and Serena Williams.

These captivating picture book biographies highlight two influential black tennis players: Althea Gibson and Serena Williams. Deans showcases Gibson’s talent and determination by using clear, straightforward prose. Janmohamed celebrates Williams’ impressive athletic skills and dedication.

Deans, Karen. Play to win: How Althea Gibson broke barriers and changed tennis forever. illus. by Elbrite Brown. 32p. Holiday home. Jan. 2021. p. $ 7.99. ISBN 9780823448531.
Gr 2-5-Born to sharecroppers in South Carolina, Gibson (1927-2003), a pioneering black tennis player, grew up with various family members in Philadelphia and New York before eventually reuniting with her parents in Harlem. Gibson struggled in school; she fought and skipped class. Gibson found her true passion when she was introduced to table tennis. Finding focus and motivation in competing, she was committed to becoming the best, even when she lost and even after being a victim of racism in the South when she went to college in Florida. Gibson’s years of hard work and dedication paid off when she became the first African American to win a major tennis championship in 1956. She traveled to Wimbledon and played there in 1951 and 1956. Deans skillfully shows the depth of Gibson’s journey by including moments of discouragement and loss, and by emphasizing the importance of support and encouragement from friends. The historical background of racism is well covered and the clear text is concise. Brown’s illustrations sing with vibrant colors. Gibson’s illustrations particularly stand out, evoking his immense skill with kinetic movement on the page. An author’s note, a timeline of events, a bibliography with further reading, and a list of informational websites are included. VERDICT A beautiful and comprehensive addition to every biography section.–Savannah Kitchens, Parnell Memorial Lib., Montevallo, AL

Janmohamed, Shelina. The extraordinary life of Serena Williams. illus. by Ashley Evans. 128p. (Extraordinary lives). Kane Miller. Dec. 2020. pap. $ 5.99. ISBN 9781684641970.
Gr 2-5– William’s training, championships, many trials and family life are described in this biographical tribute. The text praises the tennis player as a phenomenal role model. Her drive to succeed, her philanthropic endeavors, her diverse interests and careers beyond tennis, and her advocacy for women’s equality shine on every page. Motivating quotes from Williams are featured throughout the book, and the vivid and visually appealing layout uses an array of fonts, illustrations, and borders to create an engaging reading experience. Text boxes explain terminology and interesting bits of related information. An index, additional tennis information, a timeline of Williams’ accomplishments and milestones, and sources for each quote are included. Like all books in the “Extraordinary Lives” series, this episode celebrates the courage, determination, generosity and intelligence of the iconic athlete in an entertaining, inspiring and informative way. VERDICT A worthy addition to any collection of biographies, as Williams’ story presents a phenomenal testament to never giving up and working hard to achieve a goal.–Maggie Chase, Boise State University, ID

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