The 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics was the time that those of us not engrossed in the world of gymnastics probably first heard of Simone Biles, as we watched her incredible performance, triumphing by a huge margin in the women’s gymnastics event.
This detailed biography charts her journey from a childhood of 32 hours per week of gym training to the top of the Olympic podium. Her ascent from a poverty-stricken childhood, when there was often insufficient money for food due to her mother’s problems with addiction, through foster care and eventual adoption by her grandfather eventually led her to Bannon’s Gymnastix in Houston. The book makes clear the combination of natural talent and energy, input from top class coaches and hours of dedication that contributed to Simone’s rise to the top of her sport. It also explains her diagnosis with ADHD, as well as pointing out other top sports stars who have been diagnosed with this condition.
Great care has been taken with the design and layout, making it most attractive for an MG readership. The biographical narrative is punctuated with illustrated panels explaining technical details of the sport. There is a concise history of gymnastics as a competitive sport, detailing its arrival at the Olympics and the way that the women’s competition has changed since women’s artistic gymnastics was introduced at the 1928 Games in the city of Amsterdam. I particularly liked the feature named “All around the Apparatus” dotted at appropriate points throughout the text, with its descriptions and diagrams showing the routines that Simone has pioneered and perfected.
Importantly, the book also covered the setbacks that Simone has faced, including injuries, struggling with some of the gymnastic disciplines, racism and even sexual abuse by a USA Gymnastics doctor. I applaud the author for showing young gymnasts that even those at the top of the sport have had to overcome difficult times, and presenting a clear message that they must not be afraid to speak up about any wrongful adult behaviour. In celebrating the achievements of the most decorated gymnast of all time Sally J Morgan has provided readers with many examples of what makes Simone Biles such a great role model for young people involved in any competitive sport. The illustrations by Luisa Uribe and Emma Trithart show not only the technical aspects of gymnastics, but also the obvious enjoyment that Simone Biles gains from her sport.
Overall I would say that this is a fantastic addition to the Trailblazers series and a fascinating book for anyone of 10+.