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Children's Nonfiction Olympics

Kid Olympians: Summer

True Tales of Childhood from Champions and Game Changers

by (author) Robin Stevenson

illustrated by Allison Steinfeld

Quirk Books
Initial publish date
Jan 2024
Olympics, Sports & Recreation, Social Activists
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2024
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 8 to 12
  • Grade: 3 to 7


Triumphant, relatable, and totally true biographies tell the childhood stories of a diverse group of international athletes who have captured the world’s attention at the Summer Olympics and Paralympics, like Simone Biles, Jesse Owens, Naomi Osaka, Tatyana McFadden, and 12 other incredible olympians.

Athletes throughout history have dreamed of competing in the Olympics—
and some were kids themselves when those dreams and plans began! In Kid Olympians: Summer, discover the childhood stories of legends such as:

  • Usain Bolt, who used to skip practices to go to the arcade and play video games.
  • Serena Williams, who sometimes hit her tennis ball over the fence on purpose!
  • Tatyana McFadden, who had to fight to be allowed on her school’s track team

Featuring kid-friendly text and full-color illustrations, you’ll be inspired to dream bigger, faster, and higher than ever before!

The diverse and inspiring group also includes Michael Phelps, Yusra Mardini, Dick Fosbury, Ibtihaj Muhammad, Gertrude Ederle, Nadia Comaneci, Ellie Simmonds, Tommie Smith, Wilma Rudolph, and Megan Rapinoe.

About the authors

Robin Stevenson is the award-winning author of more than 25 books for kids and teens, including the board book Pride Colors, the picture book Ghost’s Journey: A Refugee Story and the nonfiction books Kid Activists and Pride: The Celebration and the Struggle. The first edition of her nonfiction book Pride: Celebrating Diversity & Community (2016) won a Stonewall Honor and was shortlisted for numerous other awards. Robin lives in Victoria, British Columbia, where she attends Pride celebrations with her family every year, but always leaves her dog safely at home.


Robin Stevenson's profile page

Allison Steinfeld's profile page

Excerpt: Kid Olympians: Summer: True Tales of Childhood from Champions and Game Changers (by (author) Robin Stevenson; illustrated by Allison Steinfeld)


You’ve probably watched the Summer Olympics and Paralympics on television: Runners and wheelchair racers, tearing down the track at lightning speed. Gymnasts, all power and grace as they spin around the bars and flip across the floor. Swimmers, swiftly powering through the water, as smoothly as fish.
For many young athletes around the world, competing at the Olympics is the ultimate dream. But long before they made it to international competitions, all the Olympians in this book were little kids who liked to run, jump, and play . . . a lot!
Gymnast Nadia Comăneci liked jumping on beds and climbing trees—including, on one occasion, the Christmas tree in her living room. From the time she could speak, swimmer Ellie Simmonds constantly asked her mom what they would be doing that day—she needed to be busy and active. And many years before he became the world’s fastest sprinter, Usain Bolt was exhausting his parents by running everywhere and climbing everything.
Some of these Olympians had parents who helped them get involved in sports at a very young age. Nadia Comăneci’s mother signed her up for gymnastics at five, to give her an outlet for her endless energy. Yusra Mardini’s dad was a swimming coach who started teaching her to swim when she was just four. Serena Williams’s father started even earlier: he wrote a plan for Serena’s tennis training before she was even born!
Older siblings also played an important role for many of these Olympians. Megan Rapinoe used to watch her older brother play soccer and copied all his moves. When Yusra Mardini was little, her big sister Sara led the way at the pool—and when war came to their country, she led Yusra to safety in Europe as well.
Yusra wasn’t the only athlete who had to overcome difficult circumstances on her way to the Olympics. Wilma Rudolph survived polio and had to learn to walk again before she could run. Jesse Owens faced racist laws and attitudes as a child, as a college student, and at the 1936 Olympic Games in Nazi Germany. Wheelchair racer Tatyana McFadden spent her first five years in a Russian orphanage, where she didn’t have access to a wheelchair. And Gertrude Ederle grew up in a time when girls weren’t encouraged to do sports at all—and when women had to wear long skirts and stockings to swim!
As kids, these future Olympians didn’t all start out looking like stars. At Michael Phelps’s first swimming lesson, he threw a tantrum because he didn’t want to get his face wet. High jumper Dick Fosbury was mocked for his unconventional style. And Naomi Osaka didn’t particularly like hitting tennis balls—she just wanted to beat her older sister!
Although it takes a lot of hard work and commitment to get to the Olympics, these athletes didn’t always feel like practicing. Simone Biles was torn between her love of gymnastics and her desire to go to school and hang out with her friends. Serena Williams sometimes hit her tennis ball over the fence on purpose, so she’d have an excuse to take a break. Usain Bolt used to skip after-school practices to go to the arcade.
In the end, they all had the determination to keep going, even when the odds seemed stacked against them. They made it to the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. They won medals, shattered records, broke new ground, and used their voices to speak up for what mattered to them.
And every one of them was once a kid who had a dream—and dared to follow it.

Editorial Reviews

“Steinfeld's cartoon scenes, which are as upbeat as the narratives, place the budding international stars amid physically and racially diverse groups of family members and fellow competitors or in climactic victory poses. More inspiring tales of young dreamers and achievers.”—Kirkus Reviews
Praise for the Kid Legends series:
“Telling the true stories of famous people’s childhoods, this book inspires kids to think big and humanizes historical figures in a new and fresh way.”—CNN Underscored, on Kid Innovators by Robin Stevenson

“These reads aren’t just educational, they’re inspiring – they remind us all that we’re never too young to start dreaming! Plus – they’re a great resource for school projects!”—, on Kid Innovators by Robin Stevenson

“Kids will be drawn in.”—Chicago Parent, on Kid Activists by Robin Stevenson

“The vivid details of each activist's story, combined with vibrant illustrations, demonstrate that every civil rights hero and popular firebrand started out as children, just like the rest of us.”—School Library Journal, on Kid Activists by Robin Stevenson

“A great way to encourage kids who already love science to pursue their interests as well as to show kids who are not motivated by traditional schooling that there are many paths to greatness.”—American Scientist Magazine, on Kid Scientists by David Stabler

“Illustrate[s] a wide variety of early influences and backgrounds, proving to kids that where they come from isn't important when fixing something that is.”—Terri Schlichenmeyer, The Bookworm Sez, on Kid Activists by Robin Stevenson

“Outstanding... Inspiring and entertaining.”—Booklist, starred review, on Kid Athletes by David Stabler

“A heartening reminder that 17 unconventional greats—not to mention all the rest—started out as children too.”—Kirkus Reviews, on Kid Artists by David Stabler

“Just like history class, only hilarious.”—Tim Federle, author of Better Nate Than Ever, on Kid Presidents by David Stabler

“Full of real information, but the author made it fun and funny.”—Michael, age 9, on Kid Authors by David Stabler

Other titles by Robin Stevenson

Other titles by Allison Steinfeld