From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 3—Not only was Gibson a record-breaking tennis player, but she also played an important role in breaking down racial barriers. As a child of poor sharecroppers in the volatile South, life was full of hardships, which resulted in her being sent off to live with an aunt in New York City and then to another aunt in Philadelphia. When she was nine, the family was reunited in Harlem where young Althea grew to be as tough as nails. Amazingly, she channeled energy from fighting and skipping school to a love of sports for which she had a natural talent. Winning title after title, this amazing athlete rose to fame and proved she was indeed playing to win. For the most part, the multimedia illustrations are well matched to the power and fluidity of the text, particularly in capturing the champion in action. In some spreads, the perspective is awkward, and in a few others, the backgrounds overwhelm the main figures. Overall, though, this well-written and attractive biography will be a popular addition to most collections.—Judy Chichinski, Skyline Elementary School, Tacoma, WA
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Tennis star Althea Gibson, born to sharecroppers in South Carolina in 1927, grew up in Harlem and became a bit of a wild child, sometimes skipping school. Channeling her restless energy into sports, Gibson became a champion in the local African American tennis league before travelling south for more training and education. As an adult, she triumphed in the French Championships, at Wimbledon, and at Forest Hills. Deans clearly lays out Gibson's story, from the discrimination she faced as a black woman in midtwentieth century America to the highlights of her tennis career. Brown's mixed-media collage illustrations bring the story to life, expressing on one double-page spread the jubilation of a tennis win and, on another, the wry sadness Gibson feels sitting in the back of a North Carolina bus. Graceful, cut-paper collage figures are at the heart of the illustrations, which often include freewheeling patterns in the backgrounds. This visually dynamic picture-book biography concludes with a chronology and short lists of recommended books and Internet sites. Phelan, Carolyn