Deans, Karen

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Deans, Karen


Born in Atlanta, GA; married; children: three. Education: American University (Paris, France), degree.


Home—Bethesda, MD. E-mail—[email protected]


Muralist, illustrator, fine artist, and author.


Children's Book Guild.


Playing to Win: The Story of Althea Gibson, illustrated by Elbrite Brown, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2007.


Karen Deans, a muralist and fine artist, is the author of Playing to Win: The Story of Althea Gibson, her debut picture book. The idea for the work came to Deans as she searched for biographies of African-American heroes with her school-aged daughter. Spotting a work about legendary tennis pro Arthur Ashe, Deans, a former competitive tennis player herself, recalled her childhood fascination with Gibson, the first black player to win the U.S. Nationals and Wimbledon. As the author stated in an essay on the Children's Book Guild Web site, "I saw an opportunity that connected with my sensibilities and seemed to be waving a flag and shouting ‘Write Me! Write Me!’"

In Playing to Win, Deans recounts Gibson's often difficult life, from her birth into a family of poor sharecroppers in South Carolina to her rebellious childhood in Harlem, where her energies were first channeled into athletics. Dean also notes Gibson's struggles against discrimination, which she experienced as one of the few minorities playing a sport dominated by whites. "Gibson's missteps both academically and athletically receive mention, lending depth to the scale of her eventual victories," remarked a critic in Kirkus Reviews. Judy Chichinski, writing in School Library Journal, praised the combination of Deans's narrative and Elbrite Brown's artwork in Playing to Win, writing that "the multimedia illustrations are well matched to the power and fluidity of the text."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, September 1, 2007, Carolyn Phelan, review of Playing to Win: The Story of Althea Gibson, p. 137.

Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2007, review of Playing to Win.

Publishers Weekly, August 27, 2007, review of Playing to Win, p. 89.

School Library Journal, September, 2007, Judy Chichinski, review of Playing to Win, p. 182.


Children's Book Guild Web site, (February 1, 2005), Karen Deans, "Blazing Trails for Each Other."

Karen Deans Home Page, (October 15, 2008).