A natty, cartoon-influenced picture book that introduces young readers to the tools and spirit of tennis.
Tennis, like playing the piano, is one of those compounding joys that, with a little elbow grease in the guise of frequent play, will repay in spades for a lifetime; one doesn’t need to retire from the court until he or she is near decrepitude. Professional tennis coach McLennon takes the rhyming route in his book—“They play on carpet in Russia, and Spain—on clay. / People who play tennis love to play every day”—to generate enthusiasm for hitting the court. He recommends that newbies assemble the basic equipment, including not just the obvious racquet and balls, but the more complicated grips (Continental, semi-Western, Eastern-backhand and Eastern) and strings (synthetic, polyester, Kevlar, gut and nylon). The grips and strings alone are exotic enough to spark curiosity. With the help of a little encouragement from the anthropomorphized equipment characters, the author shows how the strings shield the racquet’s face and engage the ball, while the grips guard the racquet’s body (“So that he doesn’t appear to be gaudy”). Cutesy, but McLennon makes an important point here, one that’s an elemental part of any good game. The various parts, be they components of a racquet or the players on a doubles team, have to act in concert for there to be success and pleasure. Fortunately, tennis is gratifyingly inclusive, and players’ gender, nationality, race and age matter little in the end. McLennon covers the layout of the tennis court, as well as a modest host of tennis basics, such as scoring, why “deuce” can go on and on, the oddity of “love” in a tennis match and why the number 2 is so important to the game. Short’s saturated-color artwork adeptly conveys the cheerful characters—notably the anthropomorphized equipment’s wide, childlike eyes.
McLennon’s contagious enthusiasm makes an already satisfying sport more accessible for kids.