Reviews for Nothing but Trouble : The Story of Althea Gibson


Booklist Reviews 2008 February #1
This picture-book biography portrays the young Althea Gibson as a troublemaking tomboy who was happiest when she was playing basketball, stickball, and paddle tennis ball. Jazz musician Buddy Walker saw her potential, bought her a tennis racket, and got her into "the ritziest tennis club in Harlem," but it took years for Althea to tame her anger and become the first African American player to win at Wimbledon. This athlete's story has innate appeal, and Stauffacher's telling is economical and vivid. Couch's acrylic paintings with digital elements create a vibrant sense of Althea and her world. A swirl of colors surrounds Althea in every scene, identifying her and sometimes highlighting her motions or the intensity of her emotions. An appended author's note provides a fuller history of this exceptional athlete and, in particular, the racial discrimination she faced in the all-white world of tennis in the mid-twentieth century. For more on Gibson suggest Karen Dean's Playing to Win (2007). Copyright 2008 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2007 #6
"Althea Gibson was the tallest, wildest tomboy in the history of Harlem." So begins this spirited, personality-centered picture-book biography of the first black tennis player to win Wimbledon. Stauffacher (Donuthead; Harry Sue) concentrates on Gibson's transformation from athletically gifted street tough to steely professional tennis player -- a transformation effected through Gibson's own determination and the help of many mentors, notably musician and Harlem "play street supervisor" Buddy Walker. "It took time, a good long time, but slowly Althea learned that wanting to slug her opponent as soon as she started losing...made her a worse tennis player than if she kept her cool." Stauffacher's colloquial tone and lively language are the ideal match for her subject. Couch's illustrations employ jangly, zigzagging swirls of hot colors that trail in Althea's wake -- an effective visual representation of Althea's restless, unfocused kinetic energy; the colors soften and begin to flow more coherently when Althea learns to control her energy and emotions. Not a comprehensive, birth-to-death biography, this is light on facts (skipping over Althea's early childhood and the racism that blocked her pre-Wimbledon tennis career); instead, it sets out to delineate the journey from raw young talent to self-disciplined champion. There are scads of pink princess books for the girly-girls out there; this one is for those who, like Althea, just care about The Game. Source notes and author's note appended. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2007 August #1
Bursting across Couch's impressionistic Harlem street scenes in a blaze of color, the rangy, grinning young Gibson--the first African-American tennis player, male or female, to win at Wimbledon--seems ready to jump right off the pages of this high-energy profile. Along with paying specific homage to some of the people who helped Gibson along the way, Stauffacher ascribes her passage from wild child to international celebrity to the acquisition of social as well as technical skills: "Althea realized she could dress up in white and act like a lady, and still beat the liver and lights out of the ball." For assignments, Karen Dean's Playing To Win: The Story of Althea Gibson (September 2007) is preferable, as aside from a timeline on the rear endpapers (placed so that it will be partly hidden by the jacket flap), there is no coverage here of Gibson's post-Wimbledon career. However, the author does add leads to further information at the end, and plenty of readers, athletes or otherwise, will find this tribute to her fiery spirit inspirational. (Picture book/biography. 6-9) Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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Library Media Connection - November/December 2007
Althea is constantly in trouble, whether it is for staying out too late, skipping school, or stealing from the local grocer. But, while some see her exuberance as trouble, Buddy, the recreation director on Althea's Harlem street, sees promise in her energy. Althea has a natural affinity for sports. If it involves a ball, a racket, or a net, she can play it. Buddy introduces her to the world of tennis, but there is a lot more to tennis than simply being able to play the game. Althea must learn manners and good sportsmanship. She is defiant, stomping away from her losses and yelling at the fans heckling her. Soon, however, she learns that she can be both an athlete and a lady. Following the career of the first African American to win the Wimbledon Cup, this illustrated biography offers a quick look at Althea Gibson's life. Brightly colored illustrations feature a rainbow-hued Althea against the muted background of her life. An author's note, with more details, follows the narrative. Recommended. Heather Hepler, Instructor, University of Maine at Machias © 2007 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 August #4

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.)

[Page 89]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2007 September

Gr 2-5-- "Althea Gibson was the tallest, wildest tomboy in the history of Harlem. Everybody said so." How this girl, considered "nothing but trouble," became the first African American to win the Wimbledon Tennis Championship in 1957 is both stylishly and compellingly told in this picture-book biography. From an early age, Gibson's love of sports distracted her from everything else. Buddy Walker, a neighborhood play leader, recognized her ability at street tennis, played with a wooden paddle, and handed Althea her first stringed racket. After considerable practice, he had her play at the Harlem River Tennis Courts, where she attracted the eye of Juan Serrell, a member of the upscale Cosmopolitan Tennis Club. There, assisted by pro Fred Johnson and Rhoda Smith, Gibson's game and deportment improved--though she bristled at the strict rules of behavior. Her eventual victory at Wimbledon is described in both the swinging auctorial voice and the tournament announcers' excited commentary, ending with Gibson's graceful acceptance speech. Couch's kinetic illustrations done in acrylic with digital imaging wonderfully enhance the text. Althea stands out in a blur of color against somber sepia, blue, and olive-drab backgrounds. The prose is rhythmic and has the cadence of the street, and it's a treat to read aloud. Like Katherine Krull's Wilma Unlimited (Harcourt, 1996), this is an affecting tribute to a great athlete, and a story to both enjoy and inspire.--Ann Welton, Helen B. Stafford Elementary, Tacoma, WA

[Page 186]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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