Althea Gibson: The Story of Tennis' Fleet-Of-Foot Girl

by Megan Reid (Author) Laura Freeman (Illustrator)

Althea Gibson: The Story of Tennis' Fleet-Of-Foot Girl
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

Althea Gibson was the quickest, tallest, most fearless athlete in 1940s Harlem. She couldn't sit still! When she put her mind to it, the fleet-of-foot girl reigned supreme at every sport--stickball with the boys, basketball with the girls, paddle tennis with anyone who would hit with her.

But being the quickest, tallest, most fearless player in Harlem wasn't enough for Althea. She knew she could be a tennis champion.

Because of segregation, black people weren't allowed to compete against white people in sports. Althea didn't care. She just wanted to play tennis against the best athletes in the world. And with skill and determination, she did just that, eventually becoming the first black person--man or woman--to win a trophy at Wimbledon.

Share this nonfiction picture book biography with young readers interested in sports, American history, and African American pioneers. A strong choice for the classroom and for homeschooling.

A spirited picture book biography about Althea Gibson, the first black Wimbledon, French, and U.S. Open tennis champion, from debut author Megan Reid and Coretta Scott King Honor-winning illustrator Laura Freeman.

Publishers Weekly

As a child in 1940s Harlem, Althea Gibson "reigned supreme" playing stickball, basketball, and paddle tennis: "If she put her mind to it, Althea was always the best. At everything except sitting still." In this picture book biography of the tennis legend, Reid emphasizes Gibson's athleticism and tenacity, tracing her journey from the tennis courts of Harlem's Cosmopolitan Tennis Club, where she did odd jobs to pay for lessons, to winning titles on the elite grass of Wimbledon despite structural racism and prejudice (due to "laws and white people's prejudices... black people could play tennis in their own league, but never with white people"). Reid also acknowledges that Gibson "was so eager to prove herself that she wasn't always kind." Freeman's crisp, stylized illustrations distill dramatic moments into kinetic images. Includes an author's note, a list of important dates in Gibson's life, and a bibliography. A straightforward tribute to an inspiring athlete. Ages 4-8. (Jan.)

Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

PreS-Gr 3--Growing up in Harlem, Althea Gibson lived for the summers. Whether playing stickball, basketball, or paddle tennis, she dominated each game with her athleticism and quick reflexes. At 13, Gibson joined the all-black Cosmopolitan Tennis Club, where she went head to head with adults and became an unbeatable powerhouse. She needed new competitors, but this was the segregated 1940s--Gibson wasn't allowed to play tennis against white athletes in their separate clubs. She played in the all-black American Tennis Association for several years, but she wanted more. She hoped to take on the world and compete in international Grand Slams in Paris, Queens, and Wimbledon. In 1950, she was the first black American to break the color barrier in the U.S. championships. She won international matches and later, the singles title at Wimbledon in 1957 and 1958, making her the first black person (man or woman) ever to win that event. Reid's story flows with the grace and power of Gibson herself. The tennis champion is portrayed as a dedicated, competitive, and clever role model. The author's note, in particular, helps to fully flesh out Gibson's character. The expressive and exuberant digital artwork mirrors the tennis champ's liveliness and determination. VERDICT Gibson's story, richly illustrated and expertly told, is done great justice in this inspiring biography. A first purchase for most collections.--Abby Bussen, Muskego Public Library, WI

Copyright 2019 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
January 20, 2020
Age Range
5 - 9 years
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
None None

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