Reid and Freeman celebrate the life of tennis champion Althea Gibson.
Debut author Reid takes readers from 1940s Harlem, where “fleet-of-foot” Althea Gibson is the “quickest, tallest and most fearless athlete,” all the way to 1957, when she becomes the first black player to win the championship at Wimbledon. Readers get to see Gibson’s development from a young athlete, cocksure, assertive, and focused only on winning, to a considerate sportswoman in a league of her own, paving the way for generations of young tennis players coming after her. Framing transitional moments in Gibson’s life in medallions, Freeman’s somewhat static illustrations encourage the narrative along, keeping pace with the text. The clever placement of Gibson’s form playing tennis on top of maps or with the globe represents the reach of her influence across the U.S. and the world. Other double-page spreads emphasize the enormity of the difficulties, specifically racism, Gibson faced while pursuing her dreams. One levels a “WHITES ONLY” sign on one page ever so slightly below Gibson’s determined gaze on the other. An author’s note fills in more historical and personal context for Gibson’s early and later life, and a timeline of important dates with a short bibliography of recommended texts rounds out the exploration of Gibson’s remarkable rise to tennis stardom.
A measured, well-researched winner. (Picture book/biography. 6-12)