Title: Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still
Author: Karlin Gray
Illustrator: Christine Davenier
Publisher/Year: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/2016
Perfect For: Young gymnasts, Olympic fans, Biography collections
Nadia Comaneci was born in Romania on November 12, 1961. From an early age, she was filled with boundless energy, which sometimes got her into trouble. She especially liked to climb trees and even tried to climb her family’s Christmas tree one year. But instead of reaching the top, she ended up underneath the fallen tree. Nadia’s mother signed her up for gymnastics lessons to help her expel her energy in a positive way.
One day, while cartwheeling around the playground at school, she was spotted by Bela Karolyi. He asked Nadia to join his gymnastics school. Bela and his wife Marta became Nadia’s coaches. Before long, Nadia was “flying from bar to bar, from floor to vault, and high above the beam.” A few years later, she was competing and winning trophies and metals in national competitions. In 1976, Nadia and her Romanian teammates entered the arena for the Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada. During the games, Nadia was the first gymnast to ever receive a perfect ten score. She was just fourteen years old.
Author Karlin Gray has written a fantastic account of Nadia Comaneci’s life. Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still is extremely well written and enjoyable to read. Though packed with facts, the book feels like a story and doesn’t overwhelm the reader. Illustrator Christine Davenier’s artwork is full of life and movement, perfectly capturing the essence of young Nadia.
Growing up, I had an older sister who could walk on her hands, turn cartwheels with ease, and bend completely over backwards so that both hands and both feet were touching the floor. I was lucky if I could pull off a forward somersault across the floor.
People who can do these extraordinary feats of balance have always fascinated me. They seem to have an incredible sense of body position, something I will never fully understand. I think that’s why the gymnastic events during the Summer Olympics are some of my favorites to watch. I’m amazed at what these young men and woman can do. They make it look so effortless, though I know weeks, months, even years of practice have gained them that level of skill. Still, I can’t help but think, that like Nadia Comaneci (and my sister), they were born with a special gift.
Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still would make a special gift too!