I knew of Althea Gibson but did not know much (if anything) about her. In Althea Gibson: The Story of Tennis’ Fleet-of-Foot Girl, Megan Reid uses highlights of Gibson’s life to tell her story. Gibson was not only a female pioneer but a black female pioneer as well. What you might know is that she had many firsts in tennis (winning Wimbledon as the first black, male or female, person; winning in doubles with a Jewish woman at Wimbledon) but also in golf as well. Not to mention as a girl in Harlem playing stickball with the boys, basketball with the girls even table tennis. She did her best and won. Gibson was a person who shaped sports history in many ways, allowing others to be able to follow in her footsteps.
Laura Freeman has great art complimenting these highlights of Gibson’s life. They are detailed perfectly to show the young girl who had to move, the young player who might not have always been the best in sportsmanship or the most graceful of losers, the adult who learned and never gave up. The colors are expressive and a combination of bold and comforting. They are a treat to the eyes. And as said, compliment the text by moving the story along.
The thing I took away from this was not that Gibson was a black woman who played tennis, but that she was a person who was determined. She knew she had much to overcome and was not afraid to do it. Her strength overcoming the segregation of 1940’s Harlem and later in the sport itself (even from other women) is a role model for anyone. (Ages 5-8 due to being a longer picture book).