“History” means something different to an 8 year old than to a 58 year old. What is “memory” for me is definitely “history” to him. Martina & Chrissie: The Greatest Rivalry in the History of Sports fits into that gap nicely. It tells the story of the rivalry between tennis greats Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
The most distinctive thing about this book is the strong narrative voice. It is meant to be read aloud and the narrator’s voice catches the ebbs and flows and emphases of spoken language. The book opens by acknowledging, in this strongly conversational tone, the gap between history for kids and memory for grown-ups: “You see those two names on the cover? Martina and Chrissie? You know who they are, right? No? NO?! Wow, okay.”
Throughout the book, that narrative voice shapes the way you read the book: “Martina was out of shape. REALLY out of shape. And Chrissie won. Easily.”
It’s done so deftly and it’s so easy to read aloud, that it looks easy. But it is carefully wrought craft.
The back matter includes a timeline and a list of sources. The art is acrylic and oil. Since I remember the conversation about tennis stars’ fashion choices at the time, I love that the art faithfully reproduces their changing hairstyles through time. But since the text is silent on that point, I do wonder if kids might be confused about who is who in the pictures sometimes.
This is one book that you’ll definitely want to read aloud to somebody. And the narrative voice subtly makes sure you’ll do it in exactly the right way.
Martina & Chrissie: The Greatest Rivalry in the History of Sports by Phil Bildner, illustrated by Brett Helquist. Candlewick: 2017.