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Nothing But Trouble:
The Story of Althea Gibson

by Sue Stauffacher
Illustrated by Greg Couch

      In 1957, Althea Gibson became the first African-American to win the Wimbledon Tennis Championship. The road that brought this "tomboy" to Wimbledon was far from easy, as Gibson had to tame her own temperament as well as overcome the barriers between an affluent white sport and a poor African-American girl with incredible talent. It isn't a journey Gibson could make on her own, and Nothing But Trouble does a wonderful job of showing us that.

I also enjoyed Greg Couch's illustrations, especially the use of color to present energy and movement against calm earth-tones - Althea is always shown in the middle of a rainbow rush to give us a sense of the movement, energy, and passion of the person. Towards the end of the book, as Althea learns to control her inner fire, the colors become softer, but they're never put out. Althea tames her own impulses but she doesn't lose herself or her energy.

I always enjoy picture book biographies - the tight word counts demanded force an author to give us a focused snapshot of the person in a lyrical way, which can be more deeply revealing than a heavy biographical tome. Nothing but Trouble gave me a revealing glimpse of Gibson in a way that felt true, and left me encouraged. As long as people are willing to nurture and help one another, as Buddy Walker did for Althea Gibson, the "American dream" still lives.

The Book

Alfred A. Knopf / Random House
August 2007
0375834087 / 9780375834080
Picture Book / Non-fiction / History
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The Reviewer

Jan Fields
Reviewed 2007
NOTE: Reviewer Jan Fields is the editor of Kid Magazine Writers emagazine and has written dozens of stories and articles for the children's magazine market.
© 2007