Review of “Game Set Match: Champion Arthur Ashe” by Crystal Hubbard

My husband is a dog trapped in a human body. Besides his overly friendly disposition and tendency to eat anything put in front of him indiscriminately, he loves anything that involves chasing a little ball. He plays tennis six days a week, and watches matches whenever they are on television. So I get rather more exposed to conversation about the game than I would like, since it basically bores me to death. Nevertheless, I ripped through this interesting story by Crystal Hubbard about the inspirational Arthur Ashe.

Ashe was the first African American man to win a Grand Slam tournament and at one time was the top-ranked tennis player in the world.

Ashe was not only a famous tennis player, but, as Hubbard points out, “he was just as great a champion off the court.” He believed, as he said in an interview on Face the Nation, “prominent black athletes have a responsibility to champion the causes of their race.” He not only became active in trying to recruit young black players to the game, but also in speaking out against Apartheid in South Africa.

The book tells how Ashe got started in tennis, and about the help he received in learning to play and learning to win. It ends with the story of Ashe’s famous and hard-fought Wimbledon victory over Jimmy Conners in 1975, but an afterword continues Ashe’s story. In 1979, Ashe had a heart attack at the age of thirty-six. During a second surgery, he had received blood transfusions, and contracted the HIV virus. As Hubbard reports:

“He knew that he wouldn’t overcome HIV/AIDS, but he refused to let his illness break his spirit or stop him from pursuing the causes he promoted. He said, ‘If I were to say, ‘God, why me?’ about the bad things, then I should have said, ‘God, why me?’ about the good things that happened in my life.”

Ashe became an active advocate of AIDS education and research, but sadly, died of AIDs-related pneumonia in 1993 at the age of forty-nine.

“From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.” – Arthur Ashe

The illustrator, Kevin Belford, is a great disappointment. At times he seems more interested in trying to channel LeRoy Neiman, the famous lithographer known for sports pictures, than in bringing the characters to life. The results struck me as a bit too artificial and impersonal – not something that might capture the imaginations of children.

Evaluation: Even if you don’t like tennis, you can’t help but be inspired by the life of Arthur Ashe. It should be noted, however, that the majority of the book focuses on Ashe’s game, not on his life outside the court.

Rating: 3/5

Published by Lee & Low Books, 2010

Note: Lee & Low Books describes this book as appropriate for Interest Level Grades 2 – 6 and Reading Level Grades 4 and up.

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11 Responses to Review of “Game Set Match: Champion Arthur Ashe” by Crystal Hubbard

  1. Elisabeth says:

    I remember watching Ashe play tennis when I was growing up. I also remember admiring him as a great man as well as a great tennis player.

  2. Julie P. says:

    Wow! I was a huge tennis fan as a kid and Arthur Ashe was such a role model — both on and off the court. I kind of wish this book would have focused more on all the good he did to bring attention to the AIDS cause as well as his other causes.

    Thanks for sharing! Do you mind linking up to Kid Konnection?

  3. Rural View says:

    I love your description of your husband. 😀

  4. We have this, too (not yet reviewed) … also wishing more about Ashe’s off-court life were included.

    Your comment about the illustrations “a la” LeRoy Neiman made me think of those paper placemats that were given out at Burger King (in the 80s?) with sports scenes on them …

  5. Jenners says:

    It wasn’t until the end that I realized you were reviewing a children’s book. I didn’t know a lot of the details of Arthur Ashe’s life … he sounds like a really fascinating and classy guy.

  6. Staci says:

    I remember this when he contracted the HIV virus and then passed away. I thought he was a person of character!

  7. Doret says:

    I agree about the illustrations. I would’ve liked this one more if it had a different artwork.

    I loved the illus. for Hubbard’s last book – The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby

  8. My original manuscript for this book was well over the standard limit for a picture book biography. I wanted to include Mr. Ashe’s military service, his experience with the Davis Cup as it related to dealing with John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors, his arrests for protesting the treatment of Haitians, the books he wrote, the tennis programs he started for children, the players union he helped found, the way he handled USA Today’s plan to out his HIV status–he did so much, much more than I could put in a children’s book of this format. Some of the above was noted in the chronology of his life and in the timeline of his important achievements. I chose to write about his early life and tennis career simply because I had to choose one focus for the meat of the book. His demeanor and attitude as a player reflected the way he behaved off the court, and that’s one of the lessons I hope young readers take from the book. Thank you for your kind review of my book. I have to say, though, that I really like Mr. Belford’s illustrations…

  9. zibilee says:

    Though I don’t follow or play tennis, I am a huge Ashe fan, and have read so many wonderful things about him. I might have to get my hands on this book if I can. It seems rather interesting to me, despite the artwork!

  10. stacybuckeye says:

    6 days a week?!! Jason used to play 2-3 times a week but since Gage arrived I’ve got him down to 1. Once I ‘ve got the hang of this mothering thing I may let him play more, LOL.
    I actually enjoy tennis although I don’t play,

  11. bob says:

    nice job with the book and all

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