Game, Set, Match: Superstars of Tennis | Nonfiction Elementary Spotlight

These engaging picture book biographies spotlight two influential Black female tennis players: Althea Gibson and Serena Williams.

These engaging picture book biographies spotlight two influential Black female tennis players: Althea Gibson and Serena Williams. Deans showcases Gibson’s talent and determination using clear, straightforward prose. Janmohamed celebrates Williams’s awe-inspiring athletic skill and dedication.


Deans, Karen. Playing To Win: How Althea Gibson Broke Barriers and Changed Tennis Forever. illus. by Elbrite Brown. 32p. Holiday House. Jan. 2021. pap. $7.99. ISBN 9780823448531. 
Gr 2-5–Born to sharecroppers in South Carolina, Gibson (1927–2003), a trailblazing Black tennis player, grew up with various family members in Philadelphia and New York City before finally reuniting with her parents in Harlem. Gibson struggled in school; she got into fights and skipped class. Gibson found her true passion when she was introduced to table tennis. Finding focus and motivation in competition, she committed to becoming the best—even when she lost and even after experiencing racism in the South when she went to college in Florida. Gibson’s years of hard work and dedication paid off when she became the first African American to win a major tennis championship in 1956. She made it to Wimbledon and played there in 1951 and 1956. Deans skillfully shows the depth of Gibson’s journey by including moments of discouragement and loss, and by emphasizing the importance of the support and encouragement from friends. The historical context of racism is handled well, and the clear text is concise. Brown’s illustrations sing with dynamic colors. Illustrations of Gibson stand out in particular, evoking her immense skill with kinetic movement on the page. An author’s note, a time line of events, a bibliography with further reading, and a list of informational websites are included. VERDICT A beautiful and thorough addition to every biography section.–Savannah Kitchens, Parnell Memorial Lib., Montevallo, AL


Janmohamed, Shelina. The Extraordinary Life of Serena Williams. illus. by Ashley Evans. 128p. (Extraordinary Lives). Kane Miller. Dec. 2020. pap. $5.99. ISBN 9781684641970. 
Gr 2-5–Williams’s training, championships, numerous hardships, and family life are described in this biographical tribute. The text praises the tennis player as a phenomenal role model. Her drive to succeed, her philanthropic projects, her various interests and career pursuits beyond tennis, and her advocacy for women’s equality shine on every page. Motivating quotes from Williams are featured throughout the book, and the lively, visually appealing layout uses a range of fonts, illustrations, and borders to make an engaging reading experience. Text boxes explain terminology and interesting tidbits of related information. An index, supplementary information about tennis, a time line of Williams’s achievements and milestones, and sources for each quote are included. Like all the books in the “Extraordinary Lives” series, this installment celebrates the iconic athlete’s grit, determination, generosity, and intelligence in an entertaining, inspiring, and informative manner. VERDICT A worthy addition to any biography collection, as Williams’s story showcases a phenomenal testament to never giving up and working hard toward a goal.–Maggie Chase, Boise State Univ., ID

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