Most elite athletes have inspirational stories of how they became a world-class competitor. For some it’s natural ability plus determination, for others it’s childhood circumstances paired with unlikely opportunities. KIDATHLETES by David Stabler and illustrated by Doogie Horner is a part of the Kid Legends series and this collection of tales of sixteen famous athletes including these five female pioneers who are not only relatable but also sure to inspire sporty girls:
Billie Jean King (The Girl Who Ran on Racket Power)
Danica Patrick (Girl without Fear)
Gabrielle Douglas (Grace under Pressure)
Babe Didrikson Zaharias (A Girl for All Seasons)
Julie Krone (And the Marvelous Mischievous Pony)
I’ve always enjoyed “did you know” articles and books that share lesser known facts and tidbits. I have to say that KID ATHLETES, a biographical collection of famous men and women, did not disappoint.
NASCAR driver Danica Patrick may have been squeamish around bugs and swimming in the ocean as a little girl but at age nine a fearless Patrick discovered the thrill of driving fast in a go-kart. I learned something new; I did not know that her mom had worked as a snowmobile mechanic or that she left high school to move to England and join a race-racing team.
Before the infamous Bobby Riggs tennis match, Billie Jean King had to overcome roadblocks to competition placed by tennis official Perry Jones (also known as a “czar”) to compete. She also scrimped and saved loose change to buy her first tennis racket ($8). I do have a critique with the opening of this entry: “Before Billie Jean King, tennis was a sport played by wealthy women in frilly white dresses She made it possible for anyone, from any background, to dream of one day winning the U.S. Open or Wimbledon championship.” While Billie Jean King certainly broke down barriers, Althea Gibson was winning Championships and breaking down barriers years earlier.
How many kids are drawn to a sport via the influenced of a sibling? Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas learned how to do a cartwheel from her older sister and that eventually led down a path to a gold medal in gymnastics at the 2012 Olympic Games. Throughout her career she shows poise and strength on gymnastics apparatus but choosing to ignore several incidents of bullying shows a different type of poise and strength.
Babe Didrikson Zaharias, considered the greatest female athlete of the twentieth century, was tough from the get-go – as a baby she defied the constrained of her crib and I doubt many athletes also could add to their resume they performed with a traveling circus.
The first woman to be inducted into the Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame, Julie Krone was drawn to a pony named Filly as a child. This is a heartwarming tale that comes full circle and a delightful introduction to this trailblazing jockey, especially timely now that we’re in Triple Crown season.
What do these women have in common? They are all amazing athletes but first they were just a kid who you might have sat next to you in third grade or who lived in the house down the street. In addition to the easy-to-read narrative, the humorous drawings make this an entertaining, enjoyable read.