Marvelous Mabel

By Kirkus Reviews

A long-overdue spotlight on a trailblazing athlete.

Hubbard tells the story of Mabel Fairbanks, the first Black woman to join the United States Figure Skating Hall of Fame. Mabel was born in Florida in 1915 and orphaned at age 8. After moving to New York City to live with relatives, she was briefly homeless before landing a job as a live-in nanny. When the family no longer required Mabel’s services, she was taken in by Wally Hunter (known as Uncle Wally), a part-time handyman who lived in the family’s building and was the first person who really took care of her. Mabel had always longed to learn to skate, but she was denied admission to the skating rink because she was Black. Uncle Wally, who worked in an ice cream factory, used his knowledge of dry ice to build an in-home skating rink in their apartment, launching a storied career—Mabel would go on to become a legendary athlete and coach who trained Olympians Tai Babilonia, Scott Hamilton, Kristi Yamaguchi, Debi Thomas, Rudy Galindo, and Tiffany Chin. Depicting Mabel’s frustrations, loneliness, and joy as well as her athletic prowess, Harris’ warm, expressive digital illustrations pair well with Hubbard’s straightforward yet inspiring text.

An account of a sports pioneer that should be widely read and shared.