Marvelous Mabel

By Publishers Weekly

Perseverance lies at the center of this affecting biography of Mabel Fairbanks (1915–2001), “America’s first Black figure skating star.” Focusing on Fairbanks’s youth, the book begins with its eight-year-old protagonist en route to reside with her brother in N.Y.C. after her parents’ death. When the arrangement fails to work out, she’s briefly left unhoused until a passerby offers her a job nannying, and eventually connects her to a caregiver supportive of her passion for ice-skating, even creating a dry-ice rink in Fairbanks’s room. In matter-of-fact prose, Hubbard depicts the racism Fairbanks confronts when trying to skate at a nearby ice rink: “When Mabel stepped onto the ice, the other skaters stopped to stare at her. Scowling parents hauled their children off the rink.” Nevertheless, she persists, leading to her creating and touring skating shows of her own. Hubbard’s narrative spotlights a passionate childhood before abruptly concluding with an early-in-life instance of triumph over prejudice. Sleek digital illustrations by Harris rely on a muted palette in images that showcase Fairbanks’s determination. Back matter includes an afterword and bibliography.