Tag Archives: women in sports

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

Written by: Megan Reid

Illustrated by: Laura Freeman

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Historical Figure, Women in Sports, Segregation, Trailblazer, Black Culture & Identity. 


Althea Gibson was the first Black person to win a Wimbledon trophy!  This book talks about how sporty she was as a child, and how Althea could never stop moving.  When Althea found a Black tennis club a few blocks from her home in Harlem, she had the self-confidence to walk right in and start swinging a racket.  Soon, Althea began traveling to play against other Black players.

The story also addresses how sometimes Althea did not exhibit the best sportsmanship during games, making fun of other players and getting upset when she lost.  However, this drive also caused her to desegregate the women’s tennis league that competed globally for events like Grand Slams and Wimbledon.  Althea fearlessly took on the challenge, gaining notoriety.  She won Wimbledon in 1957 and then again in 1958.

Unfortunately, Althea’s fame and ability did not break down as many racial barriers as she had hoped and Althea left tennis feeling like the sport abandoned her.  She did massive amounts of youth outreach and set up mobile tennis courts in neighborhoods that lacked them, but became jaded by the whiteness and racism that existed (and still exists) among the sports of the elite.  Overall, this is a very positive book that focuses on Althea’s achievements and life, and does not go into details about her later life, which is fine (it is a children’s book after all) but there is a long Author’s note in the back, timeline of important events, and a list of other resources to learn more.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Reid, MeganMegan Reid works in books and television. She’s lived in seven states and two countries (and gone to twelve schools!), but now she’s happy to be based in Brooklyn with her dog, Luna. Althea Gibson is her first book for children.




Freeman-headshot-G54sml_800Laura Freeman is originally from New York City, but now lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children. Laura received a BFA from the School of Visual Arts and began her career working for various editorial clients. Laura has illustrated over thirty children’s books, including Hidden Figures written by Margot Lee Shetterly, the Nikki & Deja series by Karen English and Fancy Party Gowns by Deborah Blumenthal. In addition to illustrating books and editorial content, her art can be found on a wide range of products, from dishes and textiles to greeting cards.


Written by: Jason Reynolds

Cover Art by: Vanessa Brantley-Newton

For ages: YA Middle Grades

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Family, Grief, Death, Social-Emotional Growth, Sports, Women in Sports, Growing Up, Coping, Friendship, Black Culture & Identity.

Summary: Patina is just trying to do her best at a new school and on a new elite track team that she is now a part of.  Patina, or Patty for short, can run like a flash.  But what is she running from?  A lot of things.  She’s running to deal with the new rich kid school she now attends, ever since her aunt and uncle adopted Patty and her younger sister Maddy. She’s running because her mom doesn’t have legs anymore, and that’s why she can’t care for Patty and Maddy anymore (even though they see her regularly).  She’s running to prove to everyone that she belongs on the team.

This book is fantastic.  It is the second of a four-part series about the track team Patina is a part of, each book profiling a different member of the team in the same friend group.  Patty is dealing with a lot in her life: a new family structure, caring for her sister and both of their hair (since their aunt who they call Momly (mom+Emily) is white), a brand new school AND a crummy group project.

The reader is privy to Patty’s innermost thoughts, and how she just wants to successfully navigate her life and responsibilities.  Her father’s death and her mother developing the diabetes that eventually took her legs is still very raw.  Patina is struggling to understand that her mother developed diabetes because during the grieving process she would bake all of Patty’s father’s favorite treats constantly, eventually losing toes, feet, and legs.  When Momly and Maddy get into a car accident, can Patina imagine life without them both?  The accident and subsequent injuries coupled with a huge track meet for Patty is the culmination of the plot, and leaves the reader wanting to immediately begin the next book in the series!

About the Author & the Cover Artist:

180314_FastCompany_JasonReynolds-7Jason Reynolds is one of the most important YA authors right now, he has such finesse and talent with words.  Here is the About section from his website, because we can’t say it any better than he already has:

“Well, if you’ve made it here, that means you’ve survived the huge picture of my face! Congrats! And to reward you, I’m going to tell you all about…me. Sorry. No cake. No confetti. No money falling from the ceiling…this time.

So, I’m a writer. And when I say I’m a writer, I mean it in the same way a professional ball player calls himself an athlete. I practice everyday and do the best I can to be better at this writing thing, while hopefully bringing some cool stories to the world. The stories are kinda like my slam dunks. Except, I’m dunking words. In your FACE! Ha!

I graduated from the University of Maryland (where I spent about 65% of my time writing and reciting poetry all over campus…yeah, that was me) with a B.A. in English, then packed my bags and moved to Brooklyn because somebody told me they were giving away dream-come-true vouchers.

And if I ever find the person who told me that… let’s just say, no one was giving away anything. ANYTHING. Lucky for me I had all these crazy stories to keep me going. Ten years later, here I am, doing my best to string together an “ABOUT” section on my own website about my own books. Crazy.

Here’s what I know: I know there are a lot — A LOT — of young people who hate reading. I know that many of these book haters are boys. I know that many of these book-hating boys, don’t actually hate books, they hate boredom. If you are reading this, and you happen to be one of these boys, first of all, you’re reading this so my master plan is already working (muahahahahahaha) and second of all, know that I feel you. I REALLY do. Because even though I’m a writer, I hate reading boring books too.”

vanessa-new-225x300-2Vanessa Brantley Newton was born during the Civil Rights movement, and attended school in Newark, NJ. She was part of a diverse, tight-knit community and learned the importance of acceptance and empowerment at early age.

Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats was the first time she saw herself in a children’s book. It was a defining moment in her life, and has made her into the artist she is today. As an illustrator, Vanessa includes children of all ethnic backgrounds in her stories and artwork. She wants allchildren to see their unique experiences reflected in the books they read, so they can feel the same sense of empowerment and recognition she experienced as a young reader.

​Vanessa celebrates self-love and acceptance of all cultures through her work, and hopes to inspire young readers to find their own voices. She first learned to express herself as a little girl through song. Growing up in a musical family, Vanessa’s parents taught her how to sing to help overcome her stuttering. Each night the family would gather to make music together, with her mom on piano, her dad on guitar, and Vanessa and her sister, Coy, singing the blues, gospel, spirituals, and jazz. Now whenever she illustrates, music fills the air and finds its way into her art.

The children she draws can be seen dancing, wiggling, and moving freely across the page in an expression of happiness. Music is a constant celebration, no matter the occasion, and Vanessa hopes her illustrations bring joy to others, with the same magic of a beautiful melody.

Players in Pigtails

Written by: Shana Corey

Illustrated by: Rebecca Gibbon

For ages: 4 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Women in Sports, Historical Figures, Baseball, Feminism. 

Summary: This is a great book about the phenomenon of women’s baseball teams around WWII, when most of the men were off fighting in the war. Part history and part historical fiction, the reader learns about the little-known history of the sport.  Girls all across the country loved playing baseball, but there were no teams or opportunities for women.  The war provided that for a few years, until men came back and the advertising campaign of “the perfect housewife” came into play, forcing women back into the home and out of the public life filled with freedom that they had been accustomed to.

In the 1940’s, these players were also expected to still embody the femininity that was typically associated with women.  Thus, the players had to wear skirts and makeup on the field.  The song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” was even written about a female player!

There is an extensive Author’s Note about her own journey learning about these famous athletes that have been mostly lost to history.  A League of Their Own is a popular film that recounts these teams!

We imagine that grandparents and older folks would have a lot to recount about this era!  Corrie’s nana used to talk about working in a factory as the best years of her life, because she got to hang out with her friends and make some money.  She even refused to marry Corrie’s papa until he came back from the war, because she didn’t want to be tied down!

Reflection Questions:

  • What did you learn?
  • Do you like to play baseball?
  • Do you think everyone can play sports?
  • Why do you think that there aren’t anymore professional women’s baseball teams?
  • What do you know about softball?
  • Do you think it’s the same in popularity as baseball?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

image-assetShana Corey grew up in the South—in Savannah and Athens, Georgia, and Charlotte, North Carolina.  From her website: “When I was little, I loved stories about olden-day girls—my favorites were Betsy-Tacy, All-of-a-Kind Family, and Little House on the Prairie. When I wasn’t reading books about olden-day girls, I loved playing olden-days with my sister, Marci. (We always fought over who got to be Laura. Marci had braids, which worked in her favor, but I was older and bossier so I usually won.) So imagine my delight when I went to college and discovered that I could take entire classes on (and get credit for learning about) olden-day girls! (Yay, Smith College!) I learned to call it women’s history, but really, it was the same topic I’d been interested in since I was five.

Now I have the great pleasure and honor of editing books for children myself. A lot of the books I edit—like Babymouse and Junie B. Jones—take place nowadays, but some, like Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm and The Misadventures of Maude March by Audrey Couloumbis, are about olden-day girls. I also write picture books, most of them true stories about brave women and girls in history, women like Amelia Bloomer and Juliette Gordon Low, women with gumption and guts who had the courage to take a stand for the things they believed in, even when the rest of the world told them they were wrong. That kind of person inspires me because I think it’s exactly that kind of courage that changes the world.

I live in Brooklyn, New York, with my family. When I’m not writing or editing, I’m usually reading with my kids. They like stories about the olden-days too (and graphic novels and series and books that make them laugh and…).”

If you’d like to find out more about Shana, you can check out these interviews:

Old-time Gals with Gumption | The Picture Books of Shana Corey

Scholastic Author Bio

Authors Note From Shana Corey

• The Mermaid Queen, Shana Corey, and Some Art That’ll Really Wake You Up

• Shana Corey: Her Life in Books

Author-Editor Feature: Shana Corey of Random House

8bfd807bba20d6b27a1109a6781ef3c9Illustrator Rebecca Gibbon was born in Wales in 1968. The youngest of four children she was fed on a diet of picture books by Edward Ardizzone, Roger Duvoisin & Richard Scarry; she dreamt of being an illustrator. Her favourite book was “Frances Face-Maker” by Tomi Ungerer.

Her ambition was realized after gaining a first class Honours degree from John Moores University and consequently a Masters at Royal College of Art, London. While at the RCA she was spotted at a childrens book expo in Paris by a french Agent. Since graduating she has worked all over the globe and is represented world wide by Illustration Ltd

Rebecca paints in watercolour ink & coloured pencil, and bases her characters on the people she has met and seen over the years. She used to paint on newsprint until one day she looked back at some old work and it had all faded. Lesson learnt, she now works on acid free cartridge paper.

She lives with her husband and two boys in what was once the Old Village Stores, surrounded by their eclectic collections of vintage childrens books, balloon pumps & 1950’s ceramics. She loves junk shops, flea markets, drinking tea & of course drawing.

Introducing: Annahita and her Hot Air Balloon Adventures!

Happy Saturday folx!  After a few waterlogged days here in New England, we were graced with a sunny afternoon.  Naturally, we spent it inside doing boring but necessary things like cleaning, laundry, and of course working on the website!  Now it’s time to go outside and look for important favorites of ours like pretty rocks and soft moss.  Hope you’re having a great Saturday, whatever is happening! 

The Tiny Activist: Introduce yourself!

Screen Shot 2019-06-22 at 12.13.01 PMAnnahita: Hi! My name is Annahita, I was born in the UK to an Iranian mother and Welsh father. I moved to Switzerland 11 years ago to be live with my German husband, and together we have two girls (5 and 6 years old) who haven’t got a clue if they are Swiss, German or British 🙂

TTA: What are you passionate about?

A: I am passionate about naturally inclusive children’s books. I believe that fear and prejudice grow out of a lack of knowledge and exposure, and I feel that books are a wonderful way to broaden children’s minds, and introduce them to topics or people that they may not necessarily come across in their daily lives. I also believe that girls should be FAR better represented in children’s books. They need more inspiring role models in positive fictional stories that they can go to sleep dreaming about.

TTA: Tell us about a project you’re currently working on!Screen Shot 2019-06-22 at 12.20.51 PM

A: I am working with a wonderful illustrator, Jennifer Kirkham, to produce a series of books called the Hot Air Balloon Adventure series. The stories are about three cousins who go on adventures in a hot air balloon, exploring exciting destinations around the world. I wanted children to be reading stories about girls who do fun and physical stuff (like snowboarding and climbing), girls who encourage each other to be brave and work together to overcome obstacles, girls who have a passion for our beautiful world.

Screen Shot 2019-06-22 at 12.15.22 PMI am also working on re-writes of the traditional princess fairy tales, trying to keep the original magic and delight of the original stories, but just changing silly storylines being all about meeting a prince and getting married. In all of my books I ensure that the characters in the story are a mixture of skin colours, because I believe it’s important not just for children of colour to see themselves in the pages of books, but for white children to see themselves in the pages of books, alongside children of colour with equally important roles in the stories.

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TTA: How can people support you on your journey?

A: Follow me on social media (follow the links below!), sign up for updates on the website to know when new books are released, but most importantly buy the books, review the books, and spread the word about them to people who you think would also enjoy them! 🙂 At the moment, every penny of profit I make in book sales goes towards the cost of illustrating the next story.

The Girls
TTA: What book was your favorite in 2018?

A: Really?!? Only one?! Oh this is so hard. Well obviously I would like to say my own, but I will stop myself and instead say: I absolutely loved The Girls by Lauren Ace and Jennie Lovlie. It just says so much, so naturally with it’s illustrations and simple but powerful storyline. I cried the first ten times I read it to my children!

TTA: What are you looking forward to in the coming year?

A: The third and fourth hot air balloon adventure stories coming out! Footprints in the Snow is coming out on 1st June; in this one the girls fly to Iceland to go snowboarding, and end up making a very large-footed friend. It’s a lovely story with a message about treating everyone as equals. In the fourth story, the girls go with Grandma on a mountain climbing expedition in Switzerland in search of some long lost treasure. So much adventure!!

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Stay Connected with Annahita!

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MDLM Books Instagram

MDLM Website


Stay Connected with Jennifer!

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Jennifer’s Portfolio

@jmk.ilus on Instagram



Written & Illustrated by: Tillie Walden

For ages: Young Adults and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Sports, LGBT Youth, Growing Up, Women in Sports, Figure Skating, Family, Love.  Content Warning: Assault.

Summary: This book is a graphic memoir of the 12 years Tillie spent as a competitive figure skater.  Tillie’s parents are rather uninvolved in her skating, and she is often at practice alone in the early hours of the morning and alone at competitions on the weekends.  This graphic novel is special in that it focuses on the mundane happenings in Tillie’s life, showing Tillie as mostly unhappy and searching for something better.  The novel shows Tillie falling in love with a classmate, spending many happy moments together until her girlfriend’s mother finds out about them together and forbids any contact between them.  Several years pass, and Tillie’s SAT tutor assaults her on their last study session.  Spinning is a book that can be consumed in one sitting, despite being almost 400 pages long.  Poignant and quiet, Tillie is an interesting protagonist.  Highly recommend this coming of age tale, especially to any young girl that may feel uninspired by their life and feel like they’re the only one around.

Reflection Questions:

  • Do you think Tillie feels satisfied with her life?
  • What do you think she would change if she could?
  • Overall, do you think Tillie truly enjoyed skating, or was it just something to pass the time and have a routine established?
  • What does this book make you think about in regards to your own life?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Create your own graphic novel!  Develop your own characters, or base it on your own life like Tillie did.
  • Try a sport you’ve never done before!

About the Author & Illustrator:

TillieWaldenTillie Walden is a cartoonist from Austin, Texas.  She graduated from the Center for Cartoon Studies and has published several books.  She loves cats, architecture, and going to bed early!