Althea is nothing but trouble! Everyone agrees: her mama, her daddy, her teacher, even the policeman. But when Buddy Walker, the play leader on Althea's street in Harlem, watches her play paddle tennis, he sees something more: pure possibility. Buddy buys Althea her very own stringed tennis racket, and before long, she's on her way to becoming a great athlete—and to proving that she's more than just trouble.
Althea Gibson was the first African American ever to compete in and win the Wimbledon Cup. Born in 1927, she was a spirited child and became an enormously talented athlete. Sue Stauffacher's lively text, paired with vibrant paintings by artist Greg Couch, captures the exuberance, ambition, and triumph of this remarkable woman. Readers will cheer from the stands as Althea transforms from playground tomboy to Wimbledon champion.
Fifty years ago, in 1957, Althea Gibson became the first African-American to win at Wimbledon and Forest Hills (a feat she repeated in 1958). In rhythmic, conversational prose and vibrantly impressionistic pictures (rendered with a combination of digital imaging and acrylics), Stauffacher (Bessie Smith and the Night Riders) and Couch (Wild Child) brilliantly capture Gibson's trajectory from feisty, undisciplined tomboy to poised champion. Stauffacher appreciates that flawed heroes are the most interesting (they also make for eye-catching titles): "It took time, a good long time, but slowly Althea learned that wanting to slug her opponent as soon as she started losing her match made her a worse tennis player than if she kept her cool.... Althea realized she could dress up in white and act like a lady, and still beat the liver and lights out of the ball." Stauffacher also skillfully handles the many supporting players in Gibson's life; her discussion of Buddy Walker, who first put a tennis racket in Gibson's hand, deepens the narrative and beautifully conveys how the giftedness of one individual can inspire generosity in others. Couch is a terrific match for the author, partnering her plainspoken text with vivid visual lyricism. In one of the most interesting elements in his consistently stunning compositions, a delicate but dynamic rainbow aura swirls around Althea wherever she goes; it's a sharp evocation of her spirited and appealingly prickly personality. Boys and girls of all levels of athleticism will find much inspiration in these pages. Ages 5-8. (Aug.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information