Althea Gibson: The Story of Tennis' Fleet-of-Foot Girl

Althea Gibson: The Story of Tennis' Fleet-of-Foot Girl
Co-Authors / Illustrators
Age Range
Release Date
January 21, 2020
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Althea Gibson was the quickest, tallest, most fearless athlete in 1940s Harlem. She couldn’t sit still! When she put her mind to it, the fleet-of-foot girl reigned supreme at every sport—stickball with the boys, basketball with the girls, paddle tennis with anyone who would hit with her.

But being the quickest, tallest, most fearless player in Harlem wasn’t enough for Althea. She knew she could be a tennis champion.

Because of segregation, black people weren’t allowed to compete against white people in sports. Althea didn’t care. She just wanted to play tennis against the best athletes in the world. And with skill and determination, she did just that, eventually becoming the first black person—man or woman—to win a trophy at Wimbledon.

Althea Gibson: The Story of Tennis’ Fleet-of-Foot Girl chronicles this trailblazing athlete’s journey—and the talent, force of spirit, and energy that made it possible for her to break barriers and ascend to the top of the tennis world.

Editor review

1 review
Breaking Barriers
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Learning Value
Born in 1927, Althea Gibson experienced the racial and gender disparities that were prevalent at the time, but were in the process of being changed. For example, the all Black Women's Tennis Association was formed in 1916. Growing up in Harlem, Althea had opportunities to play many sports casually, in streets that were blocked off during the summer for children to use. When her talent for tennis was noticed, she was fortunate enough to be near the Cosmopolitan Tennis Club, where she was allowed to take lessons in exchange for helping around the club. Once she was able to best everyone at that club, she traveled with with ATA, but even that had limited opportunities. With a lot of hard work, and the support of some other tennis players, she was eventually allowed to play at Wimbledon. In 1956, she was as part of a doubles team, and in 1957 she won the women's singles title. This lead to her having a ticket tape parade in New York City, and also to her being named Women Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press. After her retirement from tennis, she wrote and also played golf professionally, and has been cited by Venus Williams as being a great inspiration.
Good Points
While Gibson's road was not easy, she came along at a time where opportunities were opening up for black and for women athletes. She had to work much harder to get as far as she did, and this picture book is a great representation of how much things have (and haven't) changed in the world of sports.

The picture book format is used well, with colorful page spreads showing Gibson in action. I wondered if women tennis players would have worn shorts in the late 1940s and early 1950s, but an online search did turn up lots of picture of Gibson in shorts. I'm always a big fan of photographs (when they exist) in biographies, but younger readers will just pull out there phones and search for them if they want!

There's an afterword providing additional information, as well as a timeline which is very helpful. A short bibliography is included as well. This book is an excellent introduction to lots of different topics for young readers.
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