SERENA by Karlin Gray


The Littlest Sister
by ; illustrated by
Age Range: 5 - 9
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A picture-book biography of tennis champion Serena Williams.

Serena was the youngest of five sisters, behind, in birth order, Yetunde, Isha, Lyndrea, and Venus. The sisters used old, donated balls to play tennis in their hometown of Compton, California; they weren’t very bouncy but would later help Venus and Serena as “good practice for Wimbledon…where the balls bounced lower because the tennis court was made of grass” (Serena would go on to win seven Wimbledon titles). Emphasis is placed on the deep and “unbreakable” bond among the five sisters. Ahanonu’s style emphasizes flat swaths of digital color, and as a result readers may need to rely on the sisters’ relative sizes and hairstyles to pick out Serena. As Gray tells it, Serena was gifted at tennis, but her father didn’t feel she was ready to compete—so she won her first match after secretly signing up for a tournament Venus was competing in, the beginning of an incredible career that has continued to make history and has consistently been supported by her sisters’ love and encouragement. Though focusing on the sisterly bond is commendable and introducing the three older sisters refreshing, alluding to but never naming racism feels disingenuous, especially given the racial injustice Williams has endured. Later images of the Williams sisters at their predominantly white Florida tennis academy only partially compensate.

An illuminating and inspiring—if somewhat rose-colored—chronicle of the life of a world-class athlete. (afterword, biographical note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

Pub Date: May 7th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-62414-694-7
Page count: 40pp
Publisher: Page Street
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2019


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