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Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams by [Lesa Cline-Ransome, James E. Ransome]

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Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams Kindle Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 91 ratings

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Editorial Reviews


The lively narrative . . . focuses on [Venus and Serena Williams's] determination to succeed and their close relationship. Ransome uses cut paper, pencil, and acrylic paints for pictures that are varied and energetic. (Kirkus Reviews )

The story of record-breaking tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams has some- thing for everyone: they’re sports superstars, civil rights champions, and fiercely loyal and hypercompetitive sisters. . . . [T]his account celebrates their amazing, uplifting career journey and hard-won success. (BCCB )

The acclaimed Ransome husband–and–wife duo move from the historical to the present-day with this story of African American sisters Venus and Serena Williams, who changed the game of tennis with their prowess and determination. . . . Clear writing, aninviting layout, collage-style pictures, and quotes from the sisters and their parents make this nonfiction format accessible for emerging and more confident readers. Cut paper, pencil, and acrylic paints blend seamlessly to create beautiful bold, colorful illustrations in tribute to two amazing athletes. . . . Will appeal to children and sports fans of all ages. (Booklist *STARRED REVIEW* )

This lovingly crafted picture book biography centers on the incredible bond between Venus and Serena Williams and one of their signature accomplishments: being the first two sisters in tennis history to rank numbers one and two in the world. . . . Fans of tennis will be in for a treat as Cline-Ransome recounts the Williams’s matches with thrilling detail. . . . An important selection for biography and sports collections. (School Library Journal *STARRED REVIEW* )

Wife-and-husband team Cline-Ransome and Ransome celebrate tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams, focusing on their formative childhoods and the way their preparation and talent fundamentally changed the game. Cline-Ransome’s chronological account begins with the sisters’ pre-dawn practices in Compton, California, sweeping the public courts of garbage and broken glass before applying themselves with phenomenal dedication (“By the time Venus was four she could hit five hundred tennis balls at every practice”; “When gunshots rang out in the distance, [their father] Richard reminded them, ‘Never mind the noise. Just play’”). As they grow and improve, moving from their family’s private coaching to the professional tour, they become the dominant force in women’s tennis and find themselves playing against each other with increasing frequency. Ransome’s detailed collages reflect this shift. Early illustrations show the girls close together, dressed in like colors with similar hairstyles. As the story progresses, the sisters are positioned apart, wearing different colors, until as young women they find themselves on opposite sides of the net, their separation emphasized by the book’s low, wide trim size. The final spread, showing them on the same side of the net, holding hands, after Serena bested Venus in the 2002 French Open, communicates the sisters’ ultimate devotion to each other. Thorough back matter—including an afterword, source notes, a selected bibliography, and further reading—is appended. (Horn Book Magazine, STARRED REVIEW July/August 2018)

Husband-and-wife team James E. and Lesa Cline-Ransome (
Before She Was Harriet) offer a powerful portrayal of the sisters and tennis legends. Growing up in Los Angeles, Venus and Serena played tennis in the courts of East Compton Park, where neighborhood gunshots sometimes interrupted their practice. The book follows their move onto professional courts, where they drew attention for their raw talent and expressive styles, as well as their unfortunate treatment by some watchers, who “threatened, booed, and taunted” the sisters for their skin tone. Cline-Ransome conveys the sisters’ affection and competitiveness, emphasizing how Serena remained one step behind Venus until the 2002 French Open, when “a victorious Serena stepped out of the shadow of her sister.” Yet the sisters are pictured standing side-by-side for Serena’s win: “ ‘Nothing can keep me from celebrating when my best friend wins a match,’ Venus said proudly.” Ransome’s sophisticated portraiture captures a likeness of the two athletes, while spreads feature playfully stylized cut-paper collage accents—visuals that enhance this tribute to sisterhood, athletics, and determination. (Publishers Weekly June 18, 2018)

Award-winning author/illustrator team Lesa Cline-Ransome and James E. Ransome's  newest nonfiction picture book pays tribute to two of the world's most impressive athletes: tennis stars and sisters Venus and Serena Williams. . . . The illustrations glory in the sisters' brown skin and colorful clothing, making them prominent "in a sea of white tennis attire, white fans, and white opponents." Every page is splashed with vibrant color and eye-catching patterns, and the figures of the women themselves are full of energy, speed and tension. An afterword, selected bibliography and source notes round out this incredible tennis life story of "two of the most popular athletes in history." (Shelf Awareness for Readers **STARRED REVIEW )

About the Author

Lesa Cline-Ransome is the author of many award-winning and critically acclaimed nonfiction books for young readers, including Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena WilliamsMy Story, My Dance: Robert Battle’s Journey to Alvin Ailey; and Before She Was Harriet. She is also the author of the novel Finding Langston, which received a Coretta Scott King Honor Award and five starred reviews. She lives in the Hudson Valley region of New York. Learn more at

James E. Ransome’s highly acclaimed illustrations for 
Before She Was Harriet received the 2018 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor. His other award-winning titles include the Coretta Scott King winner The Creation; Coretta Scott King Honor Book Uncle Jed’s BarbershopSweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt; and Let My People Go, winner of the NAACP Image Award. He frequently collaborates with his wife, author Lesa Cline-Ransome. One of their recent titles is Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams, which received four starred reviews and was an ALA Notable Children’s Book. James is a professor and coordinator of the MFA Illustration Graduate Program at Syracuse University. He lives in New York’s Hudson River Valley region with his family. Visit James at

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B075RP8DPK
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books (July 3, 2018)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ July 3, 2018
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 35442 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Not enabled
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 48 pages
  • Lending ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.8 out of 5 stars 91 ratings

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Customer reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5
91 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

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5.0 out of 5 stars Read aloud or book talk - lots of classroom potential!
By Sunday C on January 26, 2019
Extremely well written with illustrations that are worthy of stopping to look at closely. The reader feels compelled to turn each page. On some pages, the illustrations (by the author’s husband) make the reader pause and think more carefully about the gravity of what the author is saying. Wow. They had to learn how to play tennis under those conditions? On other pages, the illustrations reveal the force and power of the sisters’ talent as well as the strong bond of these sisters. The author builds on these themes with quotes and descriptions of small moments like two sisters sitting in bed, looking out the window asking, “Do you really think I can do it?” and the father bringing in “busloads of neighborhood kids” to taunt the sisters so they wouldn’t be bothered by this during real tournaments.

Would read this aloud to grades 3-5. OR would offer this as a title for small groups to read and discuss. OR would book talk this and then leave in the classroom library to be snatched up.

If you're going to book talk this - I'd project the cover (with the title) and ask students to spend a few moments looking closely. You might ask, "What do you notice?" or "What is the illustrator trying to convey?" and "What do you think the title means?" You might also read aloud the page that starts with "By the time Venus was four she could hit five hundred tennis balls at every practice...At twelve, Venus announced she would win Wimbledon" (about page 13). And then ask, "Who wants to read to find out if she does?"

If you're going to read this aloud, I'd read aloud twice. Once for the joy of it. And then again (maybe during another lesson), stopping at particular points to ask questions for students to discuss in small groups like:
*What does "game changers" mean at this point in the story? (stop in three or four places)
*How does the author convey the idea of "team" as more than Venus and Serena? (Dad and mom were supportive in numerous ways...stop at point where this is apparent)
*How does the illustrator convey the difference between the courts in Compton and the courts in professional matches? (Including the people watching) Why is this important to consider?
*If you just looked at the illustrations on each of the pages that includes both sisters, what would you learn about them?
*How do the author and illustrator convey the theme of perseverance? Friendship? Team?

Students can also choose one of these questions (that jumps out at them as important) to respond to with their own illustration and written response.

So much potential!!! I'd also read aloud or share a second and third source on these sisters and their relationship. A book on my list to read is Sisters and Champions by Howard Bryant. Oh! And don't skip looking closely at the end covers and reading the author's note at the end. The author's note might even be a "second source" to read aloud and ask, "What did I just add to my learning?"

“Whatever you become, you become in your head first.” - Venus & Serena’s mother.

Winner of 2018 Eureka Silver Award for Excellence in Nonfiction (CA Reading Association). Dear Amazon - I received a copy of this book as a member of the Eureka Award committee.
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