Books Features Genre Memoirs, Biographies, and Constructed Narratives Non-fiction Wednesday Nonfiction Picture Books Reading Themes

[Nonfiction Wednesday] Basketball Belles and Lady Tennis Players in Picture Book Biographies (Part 2 of 2)

"Basketball Belles: How Two Teams And One Scrappy Player Put Women's Hoops On The Map" by Sue Macy and Matt Collins / "Martina & Chrissie: The Greatest Rivalry In The History Of Sports" by Phil Bildner and Brett Helquist

Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2018 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, when we can.

Two days ago for Monday reading, I shared two picturebook biographies of female athletes, here is part 2 of that post.

Basketball Belles: How Two Teams And One Scrappy Player Put Women’s Hoops On The Map

Written by Sue Macy Illustrated by Matt Collins
Published by Holiday House (2011)
ISBN-10: 0823421635
ISBN-13: 9780823421633
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

The entire story used the voice of Agnes Morley, who described herself as not a ‘girly-girl’, and was sent to Stanford University by her parents in the late 1800s with the hopes that she would be just a tad more ladylike.

The thing is, it was also the time when universities were making history. This was the period (1890s) when most people thought that women shouldn’t play basketball, a sports designed for men. Yet, Stanford and Berkeley were gearing up for the very first inter-collegiate sports, ever, including basketball games for women.

Senda Berenson, a teacher at Smith College, paved the way for this, as she adapted basketball rules to make it a little more suitable for women, at the time. What I found particularly interesting was the basketball uniforms used by the women, and the fact that while Stanford and Berkeley were technically competitors during this game, they also cheered each other on, with the clear knowledge that they are altering the history of sports as people know it.

Teachers would also be happy to note that there is a detailed Author’s Note at the end, a condensed timeline of Women’s basketball, as well as a list of Resources. I was pretty pleased with this picturebook biography since it reminds me of my 16 year old girl who used to play basketball for her international school and participate in inter-school competitions when she was in her elementary years, and she also did not refer to herself as ‘girly-girl.’ Definitely a book that you should add to your library shelves.

Martina & Chrissie: The Greatest Rivalry In The History Of Sports

Written by Phil Bildner Illustrated by Brett Helquist
Published by Candlewick Press (2017)
ISBN-10: 0763673080
ISBN-13: 9780763673086
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This book features two amazing tennis players, Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert. While I would not call myself a tennis fan, this was a fairly interesting read.

It started off by providing a description of each player, beginning with Chrissie, the all-American girl, before moving on to Martina from Czechoslovakia.

I read a Goodreads review of a librarian friend who mentioned that she felt it was off-putting how Czechoslovakia was described as a “Communist country” – a place where “you weren’t free. Not like America, not at all.” I did have a similar bad taste in my mouth as I read those lines. It seemed like an unnecessary us-versus-them kind of notion, with this gratuitous “we are from the land of the free, and our land is the greatest” kind of vibe – which is precisely what these two tennis players tried to rise against, as they developed a beautiful friendship, notwithstanding the fact that they are competing against each other.

What worked for me, however, was the gorgeous art by Helquist, the chatty nature of the narrative, and the fact that these two ladies had each other’s backs, despite a few bumps along the way, as people tried to make the antagonism between them last beyond the tennis court. There is also a detailed timeline found at the end of the story, as well as a list of sources that includes audiovisual references and websites that the reader can visit for further information.

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3 comments on “[Nonfiction Wednesday] Basketball Belles and Lady Tennis Players in Picture Book Biographies (Part 2 of 2)

  1. I’ve been wanting to read the tennis one for awhile. I swear sometimes I join reading committees just so I can catch up on books I need/want to read!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting to read your reviews, Myra. I haven’t read either one, and will look for that comment about Czechoslovakia in the 2nd book. My mother so long ago played basketball on a team that played other schools, but by the time I got to high school people had changed the rules again & we could only play within the school–intramurals! Now, thank goodness, it’s changed again! Making rules for what women can and cannot do is sadly still happening in some areas. Thanks for sharing these!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. mandyrobek

    I love books about women in sports and women doing great things. These are both new to me and I’m adding them to my library cart.


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