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Playing to Win: The Story of Althea Gibson Hardcover – September 1, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

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
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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 mid–twentieth 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

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 7 and up
  • Grade Level: 2 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 890L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Holiday House (September 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0823419266
  • ISBN-13: 978-0823419265
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 11.2 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,439,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Karen Deans is a childrens' book author and illustrator living in Bethesda, Md. She has worked as a journalist and fine artist and is currently the lead set painter at a children's theater in the DC area. This work has taken her to Broadway, as set painter for a musical adaptation of the children's book Three Little Birds, based on the music of Bob Marley. Karen has instructed children in the craft of storytelling through writing, drawing and painting. As the mother of three grown children, one of her greatest joys is to help inspire young people to reach their fullest creative potential.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mensa2 on June 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is a book for ALL Ages. I am a 'Tennis' Loving 'Grannie!, and found that this book was so entertaining, you can just visualize everything and hear the balls as they hit the racket!

I like the vernacular for which this book was written in, because it depicted a certain 'era' in her life. This books makes you laugh, as well as bring tears in ones eyes. All in all I think at least every "Grannie" should have it so that they can read it too their grand children.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lynn R. Westergaard on August 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Having seen Althea Gibson play at Forest Hills in the '50's, Ms. Deans' book brings her back to life, albeit in a child-like fashion, it would also appeal to anyone who remembers what a remarkable life Ms. Gibson lived (overcoming many white stereotyped obstacles) and how remarkable she was with a racquet in hand. The illustrations by Mr. Brown are exquisite, as well.

Can't wait for the next Karen Deans' book depicting any subject she chooses.
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Format: Hardcover
<i>Playing to Win: The Story of Althea Gibson</i>, is a biographical account of the interesting life of Althea Gibson, a pioneer of the professional tennis world for black female athletes. Initially, I didn't find that this picture book was written with young learners in mind. The language and concepts didn't seem broken down in a way that was tangible enough. Maybe I am underestimating the degree to which 1st graders can absorb material, but I doesn't seem like a story children would find easy to relate to. But looking past this, I think that Althea Gibson's story is an important one for any children to learn. She overcame tough economic circumstances in her early life because someone mentored her and saw her potential, and helped her succeed. Her story teaches determination. But also teaches young people about the challenges people of color faced in the South before the Civil Rights Movement, something that seems like the distant past to today's youth. Her story explains how one person could command the respect and attention of both black and white people across the US, as well as grain worldwide notoriety. The illustrations by Elbrite Brown don't do the book enough justice. Because the content is serious and wordy, the dull illustrations make this book less exciting. Bright illustrations would have done the book good. But overall, I would still recommend this book be read in schools. It's a valuable story. After having read a lot of Angela Johnson books, I see a lot of similarities in her use of historical references to African American history and cultural that this biographical picture book informs readers of as well.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on September 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Playing To Win: The Story of Althea Gibson is a children's picturebook biography of Althea Gibson, an African-American female tennis player from Harlem. Growing up in the 1930s, Althea discovered she had natural talent at tennis - but in that era, tennis was primarily a sport played at wealthy clubs that excluded African-Americans. But Althea refused to give up, and dedicated herself to becoming a record-setting, world-famous sportswoman. "In 1955 the U.S. government asked Althea to become a goodwill ambassador as part of a traveling tennis team. The team of two men and two women journeyed around the world playing tennis. It was the best thing that could have happened for Althea's career. It allowed her to play lots of tennis while touring Southeast Asia." An inspirational tale of a positive role model.
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By Collins Djeukui on March 21, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Nice book
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