An illuminating and inspiring—if somewhat rose-colored—chronicle of the life of a world-class athlete.

SERENA

THE LITTLEST SISTER

A picture-book biography of tennis champion Serena Williams.

Serena was the youngest of five sisters, behind, in birth order, Yetunde, Isha, Lyndrea, and Venus. The sisters used old, donated balls to play tennis in their hometown of Compton, California; they weren’t very bouncy but would later help Venus and Serena as “good practice for Wimbledon…where the balls bounced lower because the tennis court was made of grass” (Serena would go on to win seven Wimbledon titles). Emphasis is placed on the deep and “unbreakable” bond among the five sisters. Ahanonu’s style emphasizes flat swaths of digital color, and as a result readers may need to rely on the sisters’ relative sizes and hairstyles to pick out Serena. As Gray tells it, Serena was gifted at tennis, but her father didn’t feel she was ready to compete—so she won her first match after secretly signing up for a tournament Venus was competing in, the beginning of an incredible career that has continued to make history and has consistently been supported by her sisters’ love and encouragement. Though focusing on the sisterly bond is commendable and introducing the three older sisters refreshing, alluding to but never naming racism feels disingenuous, especially given the racial injustice Williams has endured. Later images of the Williams sisters at their predominantly white Florida tennis academy only partially compensate.

An illuminating and inspiring—if somewhat rose-colored—chronicle of the life of a world-class athlete. (afterword, biographical note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-62414-694-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Page Street

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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A larger-than-life subject is neatly captured in text and images.

THURGOOD

The life journey of the first African American to serve on the United States Supreme Court and the incidents that formed him.

Thurgood Marshall grew up in segregated Baltimore, Maryland, with a family that encouraged him to stand for justice. Despite attending poor schools, he found a way to succeed. His father instilled in him a love of the law and encouraged him to argue like a lawyer during dinner conversations. His success in college meant he could go to law school, but the University of Maryland did not accept African American students. Instead, Marshall went to historically black Howard University, where he was mentored by civil rights lawyer Charles Houston. Marshall’s first major legal case was against the law school that denied him a place, and his success brought him to the attention of the NAACP and ultimately led to his work on the groundbreaking Brown v. Board of Education, which itself led to his appointment to the Supreme Court. This lively narrative serves as an introduction to the life of one of the country’s important civil rights figures. Important facts in Marshall’s life are effectively highlighted in an almost staccato fashion. The bold watercolor-and-collage illustrations, beginning with an enticing cover, capture and enhance the strong tone set by the words.

A larger-than-life subject is neatly captured in text and images. (author’s note, photos) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6533-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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A picture book more than worthy of sharing the shelf with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney’s Minty (1996) and Carole Boston...

BEFORE SHE WAS HARRIET

A memorable, lyrical reverse-chronological walk through the life of an American icon.

In free verse, Cline-Ransome narrates the life of Harriet Tubman, starting and ending with a train ride Tubman takes as an old woman. “But before wrinkles formed / and her eyes failed,” Tubman could walk tirelessly under a starlit sky. Cline-Ransome then describes the array of roles Tubman played throughout her life, including suffragist, abolitionist, Union spy, and conductor on the Underground Railroad. By framing the story around a literal train ride, the Ransomes juxtapose the privilege of traveling by rail against Harriet’s earlier modes of travel, when she repeatedly ran for her life. Racism still abounds, however, for she rides in a segregated train. While the text introduces readers to the details of Tubman’s life, Ransome’s use of watercolor—such a striking departure from his oil illustrations in many of his other picture books—reveals Tubman’s humanity, determination, drive, and hope. Ransome’s lavishly detailed and expansive double-page spreads situate young readers in each time and place as the text takes them further into the past.

A picture book more than worthy of sharing the shelf with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney’s Minty (1996) and Carole Boston Weatherford and Kadir Nelson’s Moses (2006). (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2047-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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