Gray presents the childhood of the sensational Romanian gymnast who, at age 14, won five medals at the 1976 Olympics.
Early on, Nadia’s parents enroll her in gymnastics lessons to channel her exuberant energy. At 6, she’s spotted by Bela and Marta Karolyi and enrolled at their gymnastics school. With practice, Nadia graduates from cartwheels on the floor to difficult moves on the high beam. Her arduous road to success is highlighted at her first Romanian Junior National Championships, where she falls three times and finishes 13th. Determination and hours of daily practice lead to gold the very next year and later, to her stunning performances at the 1976 Olympics, where she awes observers, earning seven perfect 10 scores. Gray’s narrative is as sprightly as a gymnast’s back flips. She cultivates simple dramatic scenes: “The audience gasped as she twirled and whipped and flipped. / … / After a long wait, the scoreboard flashed a number: 1:00. A terrible score.” (The scoreboard, programmed for scores through 9:99, belied Nadia’s perfection.) Davenier’s watercolor, ink, and pencil pictures capture events in double-page spreads and spots. Depicted multiple times on the page, Nadia leaps and spins through dazzling routines. Davenier applies skin tones as loose blobs that partly color white faces; crowds and performers, even at the Olympics, are homogeneously fair-skinned.
Poised for the 2016 Summer Games, this pays a respectful, 40th-anniversary tribute to Comaneci’s soaring achievements. (afterward, timeline, quotation sources, selected bibliography, websites, two photographs) (Picture book/biography. 6-9)