Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams

Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams

Lesa Cline-Ransome
Illustrator:  James E. Ransome 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Simon and Schuster, 2018   ISBN: 978-1481476843

Born a little over a year apart, Venus and Serena Williams grew up in the tough Compton neighborhood in Los Angeles. They were very close and like to do everything together, so when their father started to teach Venus how to play tennis, Serene asked to have lessons too.

Every morning the girls and their father cleaned up the public tennis courts and they practiced. There were many people in the community who thought that the girl’s father, Richard, was crazy for encouraging his girls to pursue what was then a predominantly white sport. African-America girls from Compton were not supposed to play tennis, and get Venus and Serena did. In fact, they began to dream of becoming true professional players.

To this end the girls practiced and worked out. They did not have special training equipment or a professional coach so they had to come up with their own regimen that would make them strong and fast on the court. They worked hard, and when bullets flew in their neighborhood the girls learned to drop to the ground and wait until the danger passed.

At first, because of where they lived and trained, the girls remained unknowns, but when they began to win junior tournaments people began to pay attention. Then fourteen year old Venus won the West Classic in California and a year later Serena made her professional winning debut. In just three years both Venus and Serena “ranked in the top fifty” players in the world.

This was an extraordinary achievement but the sisters had plans to aim even higher. They ignored the racist threats and taunts that were thrown at them and they worked harder than ever.

Today Serena and Venus Williams are well-known, even amongst people who are not tennis fans or players. It is fascinating to learn how these girls started down the road that led them to Wimbledon and the Olympic Games. It is also inspiring to see how Serena and Venus proved to world that they could excel in a sport that few people of color played.

At the back of the book readers will find further information about Venus and Serena.