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Serena: The Littlest Sister

Karlin Gray, illus. by Monica Ahanonu. Page Street Kids, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-62414-694-7

Gray diverges from other picture book biographies of Venus and Serena Williams by focusing more fully on the youngest sister and by introducing the three other Williams sisters: Lyndrea, Isha, and Yetunde. The story opens with Serena accepting her trophy at the 1999 U.S. Open final at Arthur Ashe Stadium. “Thirteen years earlier,” the Williams children are seen pushing a shopping cart filled with tennis balls to practice at the public courts. And outside the family sport, the “girls dreamed of what they could become: Tunde, a nurse... Isha, a lawyer... Lyn, a singer.” When Venus’s career takes off, Serena receives assurance from her sister Tunde (“You’ll have your day. And it’s gonna be even bigger”). Ahanonu’s cut-paper-like compositions place exaggerated emphasis on the sisters’ bright clothes, creating a pop-art aesthetic. The conclusion brings the book full circle, as Serena again appears with her trophy, thanking “all my sisters for all the support.” Ages 8–11. (May)

Reviewed on 03/22/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Sisters: Venus & Serena Williams

Jeanette Winter. Beach Lane, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-5344-3121-8

Winter begins her understated biography of the Williams sisters in their childhood in Compton, Calif.: “Early morning, Daddy takes the sisters to the court, where some older boys still think it’s night.” The sisters are first pictured playing on a litter-filled court, but as they work hard to learn the game, they garner attention. Winter’s dynamic yet mannered art style lends individual scenes a feeling of visual vignette. The sisters’ skills result in an accumulation of trophies, and their personal flair shines through as they “try new ways of dressing and new hairstyles no one has seen on a tennis court before.” Winter addresses the sisters’ physical struggles and subsequent recovery as they “practice hard and hit those bright balls on their own tennis court—concentrating like they did when they were little.” The affectionate story concludes with the two athletes embracing over the net, following one of their many matches. Ages 3–8. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/22/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Her Fearless Run: Kathrine Switzer’s Historic Boston Marathon

Kim Chaffee, illus. by Ellen Rooney. Page Street Kids, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-62414-654-1

Kathrine Switzer turned heads when she ran—doing laps around her yard at a time when girls weren’t supposed to sweat, competing with the boys’ track team in college, and, in 1967, as the first woman to officially complete the Boston Marathon. Chaffee’s effective telling of Switzer’s iconic story emphasizes persistence, ambition, and discipline—the “pat, pat, pat, pat” of the runner’s tread is a repeated refrain—but centers on her love of the sport: “She thought running was magic.” When she completes the marathon, eluding an attack by a race official, she is asked why she did it, and says, “I like to run. Women deserve to run too.” In Rooney’s bright, straightforward illustrations, mixed media renders dramatic moments small (cutting sneakers to accommodate training-swollen toes) and large (the rage-twisted face of the race official), amplifying the empowering message. Ages 8–11. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/22/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Girls with Guts! The Road to Breaking Barriers and Bashing Records

Debbie Gonzales, illus. by Rebecca Gibbon. Charlesbridge, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-58089-747-1

In this uplifting tribute to gutsy athletes, Gonzales introduces little-known figures who competed even when told not to. Melpomene, a marathon runner, ran “alongside the men,” then “around the entire stadium,” at the 1896 Olympic Games, and Gertrude Ederle swam the English Channel in 1926. Also included is Congresswoman Edith Green, whose campaign against “athletic injustice” led to the 1972 passing of Title IX, which mandates “equal treatment for competitive girls.” Gibbon’s paintings feature lanky athletes wearing self-assured expressions and dressed in the often-restrictive attire of their eras. Gonzales suggests that it is important to honor the brave athletes who made it possible for girls and women today to “stomp, jab, tackle, grind, and SWEAT.” Back matter includes a detailed timeline of milestones for female athletes. Ages 6–9. (May)

Reviewed on 03/22/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Wild Horse Annie: Friend of the Mustangs

Tracey Fern, illus. by Steven Salerno. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-374-30306-8

As a girl on her family’s Nevada ranch, Velma Bronn Johnston, known as Annie, fell in love with mustangs. That love sustained her through a devastating bout of childhood polio—“horses took the pain away, at least for a little while.” As an adult and rancher in her own right, she noticed the brutal and inhumane way that wild horses were treated. Her outrage drove her unexpected second career as an animal-rights activist, earned her the nickname “Wild Horse Annie,” and, via a children’s letter-writing campaign, led to federal laws protecting mustangs. Though the issue of how to share land with wild horses remains controversial, Annie’s passion and persistence in the face of long odds resonates. Salerno’s illustrations combine loping lines, sketched details, and rubbed textures to conjure the vanished west of the mid-20th century, and they cleverly balance a running mustang herd with letters stampeding from Annie’s typewriter. Ages 4–7. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 03/22/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Born to Ride: A Story About Bicycle Face

Larissa Theule, illus. by Kelsey Garrity-Riley. Abrams, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4197-3412-0

Louisa Belinda Bellflower wants to ride a bike, but in 1896, it’s just not something the girls and women of Rochester, N.Y., do. Undaunted, the intrepid girl makes her brother show her how to ride, though they are both afraid she might get “bicycle face”—a terrifying condition that purportedly strikes girls and women—“Your eyes will bulge, and your jaw will close up from the strain of trying” (an author’s note reveals that so-called experts did try to scare women riders with this claim). Louisa persists, and her true bicycle face appears—“a gigantic, joyous smile.” Her discovery inspires her mother and other women in the community to become cyclists, too. Simple but thoughtfully detailed, Garrity-Riley’s illustrations incorporate multiple references to women’s suffrage campaigns. An informative afterword explains the connection between the rise of cycling and women’s rights. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 03/22/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Fast Enough: Bessie Stringfield’s First Ride

Joel Christian Gill. Cub House, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-5493-0314-2

A story about a girl who proves she can ride faster than a group of dismissive boys introduces readers to Bessie Stringfield, an African-American motorcyclist active in the 1930s and ’40s. The imagined tale centers on her reactions to being “told she was not enough,” and its somewhat predictable plot, in which Stringfield shows she is a faster cyclist than thosetaunting her, feels tame compared to her rule-breaking life. A substantial afterword includes details such as how Stringfield “became one of the first women to ride a motorcycle across America” and earned extra money performing in circuses, and notes her penchant for embellishing her own story. Slick, full-color illustrations in a comics style match the story’s contemporary sensibility, with whooshing curves showing Bessie’s speed and a triumphant, if ahistorical, high-five accented by jagged red emanata. Ages 4–8. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 03/22/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Lost Book of Adventure: From the Notebooks of the Unknown Adventurer

Edited by Teddy Keen. Frances Lincoln, $16.95 (191p) ISBN 978-1-78603-272-0

This whimsical compendium claims to be the found journals of an “unknown adventurer.” Between first-person vignettes that span the globe—“I had been exploring the vast and wild Okavango Delta in Botswana”; “the snow falls beneath me in Antarctica, revealing a bottomless crevasse”—a truly dizzying array of adventure-related information is presented, all accompanied by an assortment of small, highly detailed sketches in blue pencil that are sometimes accented with full color and interleaved with vibrant illustrations of marvelous places and thrilling moments. From a taxonomy that depicts no less than 19 types of rafts to useful itemizations of equipment and supplies, each spread holds a wilderness of compellingly specific information. Though the book has a decidedly retro feel, contemporary kids will find useful information for building outdoor skills alone and with others (a disclaimer notes, “This book contains a number of dangerous activities” that call for adult supervision). Ages 9–12. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 03/22/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Young Adventurer’s Guide to (Almost) Everything: Build a Fort, Camp Like a Champ, Poop in the Woods: 45 Action-Packed Outdoor Activities

Ben and Penny Hewitt, illus. by Luke Boushee. Roost, $16.95 (208p) ISBN 978-1-61180-594-9

In their introduction to this outdoor manual, the authors state that “maintaining our connection to nature... is more important than ever.” With that outcome expressed, they invite readers to learn about specific scenarios, such as “how to outrun a bear” (“You can’t”), survival skills, and assembly projects. Unfortunately, scattershot presentation weakens the whole. Some activities require skills not covered until later (a knot needed for a friction fire bow is not explained for another 25 pages), and there is no index for guidance. In addition, though the book acknowledges its debt to Native American traditions and mentions cultural appropriation, it offers a dodge rather than suggestions for further understanding: “That’s a lot to think about, and if it doesn’t resonate with you, that’s OK.” Boushee’s doodle-style drawings competently illustrate most concepts, but the many missed opportunities make this invitation to the outdoors too uneven to recommend. Ages 8–12. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/22/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Brave Face: A Memoir

Shaun David Hutchinson. Simon Pulse, $18.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-5344-3151-5

YA author Hutchinson (The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried) explores the travails of coming into his sexuality in the early 1990s, when homophobia was deeply rampant in the U.S., the AIDS crisis was in devastating full force, and equal rights for anyone on the LGBTQ spectrum were still a distant dream. With the lack of positive representation of queerness, Hutchinson’s views of gay people were so negative that it took him years to recognize his own sexuality. In the meantime, trying to live an inauthentic life left him angry and depressed for reasons he couldn’t grasp. The author explores his teenage years with raw honesty, presenting the truth as he saw it and sharing passages from his diaries to illustrate the turmoil he experienced—which many queer teens will continue to empathize with. Though he describes himself at times in deep depression and engaging in self harm, the memoir ends on a positive note, sharing the ways in which he finds acceptance both within himself and within the queer community, and sending an important message to other queer teens: your life is a gift, and support is out there. Ages 14–up. Agent: Katie Shea Boutillier, Donald Maass Literary Agency. (May)

Reviewed on 03/22/2019 | Details & Permalink

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