Flying High: The Story of Gymnastics Champion Simone Biles (Who Did It First?)

by Michelle Meadows (Author) Ebony Glenn (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

A lyrical picture book biography of Simone Biles, gymnastics champion and Olympic superstar. Before she was a record-breaking gymnast competing on the world stage, Simone Biles spent time in foster care as a young child. Nimble and boundlessly energetic, she cherished every playground and each new backyard.

When she was six years old, Simone's family took shape in a different way. Her grandparents Ron and Nellie Biles adopted Simone and her sister Adria. Ron and Nellie became their parents. Simone was also introduced to gymnastics that same year, launching a lifelong passion fueled by remarkable talent, sacrifice, and the undying support of her family.

From her athletic early childhood to the height of her success as an Olympic champion, Flying High is the story of the world's greatest gymnast from author Michelle Meadows and illustrator Ebony Glenn.

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Kirkus Reviews

Meadows emphasizes resilience, demonstrating how Biles met each failure with persistence, getting back up and trying again. 


Readers will see how hard Biles worked, pushing past crushing defeat and leaving high school in order to homeschool, to rise into the Final Five of Team USA at the Olympics. . . The author should be applauded for not shying away from the more difficult parts of her backstory. Glenn's illustrations are full of action, energy, and expressive emotion, and she captures her subject on every page.  

School Library Journal

PreS-Gr 3--This picture book biography of elite gymnast Simone Biles follows a pattern of setbacks and triumphs. Readers see the uncertainty of Biles's first childhood home, then watch as Biles and her three siblings are placed in a foster home, get separated, and are eventually adopted by their biological grandparents. A canceled field trip resulted in her first visit to a gymnastics facility; the disappointment of missing the cutoff for the national team fueled the efforts that led to her Olympic fame. The story does not dwell on the negatives but emphasizes how each obstacle was overcome through family support and hard work. Gymnastics terms, such as vault, bars, and beam, are introduced and the rhythm of the rhyming text reflects Biles's energy and movement. Glenn's illustrations portray the athlete at various ages; she tumbles through the house and later perfects her competitive moves. The artwork captures the power and poise of gymnastics as well as the emotions of each scene. One dynamic spread depicts "the Biles" signature floor move as she flips through the air. Back matter includes photos, sources, facts (height, birthday), and important milestones in the Olympics and International Gymnastics Federation. VERDICT A good addition to the biography section and an excellent book to hand to readers always asking for gymnastics titles.--Suzanne Costner, Fairview Elem. Sch., Maryville, TN

Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes


Michelle Meadows
MICHELLE MEADOWS is the author of numerous children's books, among them the rhymed biographies Flying High: The Story of Gymnastics Champion Simone Biles and the award-winning Brave Ballerina: The Story of Janet Collins--the first African American principal dancer at the Metropolitan Opera House. Michelle lives near the beach in Delaware with her husband and son.

SAWYER CLOUD is a self-taught freelance artist living in Madagascar, her native country. Sawyer loves sunny days and music. If not drawing, she is singing out loud in her room, wearing her favorite fairy costume, and sharing that moment with her online friends. She lives on her island with her family and her two pets, Arya the dog and Potter the cat.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Henry Holt & Company
Publication date
December 20, 2020
Who Did It First?
BISAC categories
JNF018010 - Juvenile Nonfiction | People & Places | United States - African-American
JNF007100 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Sports & Recreation
JNF019010 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Family | Adoption
JNF054060 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Sports & Recreation | Gymnastics
JNF019090 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Family | Alternative Family
Library of Congress categories
United States
Women gymnasts
Biles, Simone

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