Monday, December 17, 2007

Cybils Nonfiction Picture Book Nomination: Nothing but Trouble: The Story of Althea Gibson

Title: Nothing but Trouble: The Story of Althea Gibson
Author: Sue Stauffacher
Illustrator: Greg Couch
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, New York
Source of book: library copy

Althea was considered "trouble." A tomboy more interested in playing stickball with boys, playing basketball, and occasionally pocketing sweet potatoes from the local pushcart.

Althea happened to be playing paddle tennis when Buddy Walker, a Harlem musician with Harlem society orchestras, spotted her. Althea was playing with ragged equipment, but it didn't hide her talent. Buddy bought her secondhand equipment and eventually set up a friend to play against her at the Harlem River Tennis Courts. Althea's swift and sure grace astounded the regulars.

One of those watching was Juan Serrell, who belonged to the most exclusive tennis courts in Harlem. The proper Harlem ladies and gentlemen who belonged to the Cosmopolitan admired Althea's talent, but threw up their hands at her rough behavior. Her matter of losing ungraciously attracted attention at her first tennis court. After a while, Althea learned that becoming a tennis player meant more than slamming the ball across the court; it meant conducting yourself off the court in a gracious way.

Althea slammed and swiped her way to the Grand Dame of tennis championships: Wimbledon. The Wimbledon Cup was and is the most prestigious award a tennis player can win. And in 1950, no African American had even won Wimbledon. That is, until Althea Gibson won.

Sue Stauffacher has written an inspiring biography of an amazing woman. Greg Couch's spirited illustrations perfectly match the uniqueness of Althea' spirit and her speed and movement. Suitable for lower elementary ages, this biography will inspire readers to learn more about Althea Gibson (an extensive afterword is included, which further touches on the racism experienced by Althea Gibson; the text does not dwell on it at all). Definitely one to add to your collection.

No comments: