Kit's Winning Ways

Short story collection published in 2006; author Valerie Tripp; illustrators Walter Rane, Renee Graef, Susan McAliley, and Phillip Hood


Ruthie's mother has entered her in a tennis tournament, but Ruthie knows she's not as good as her mother thinks she is, so she asks Kit to be her doubles partner. While Kit does enjoy tennis, she knows that playing with Ruthie will mean going to the country club. Her family used to be members, but can't afford it anymore. Kit doesn't want to be embarrassed and tries to decline, but Aunt Millie refutes all her excuses (she can sew Kit tennis whites from old sheets, she can help with Kit's chores, etc). So Kit agrees. There are a few awkward moments at the club, but Kit's able to have fun playing tennis. That is, until Roger the classroom bully shows up. He taunts Kit, saying she's a loser from a long line of losers: her dad lost his job, her brother lost out on going to college, her family lost its money. His teasing gets to Kit so much that it throws off her game. Charlie makes some time to practice with her though, and she gets her confidence back.

Even then, another visit from Roger destroys the progress she's made. Charlie is there to help again though: he says to use the energy she has from her anger toward Roger as fuel for the tournament. She follows his advice, and the extra energy hones her focus. She and Ruthie return serve after serve, and she's so focused that when she and Ruthie win the final game, she almost doesn't realize that they've won the tournament. And to think, Roger inadvertently helped!

Looking Back

Tennis was yet another way people could pass the time during the Depression: it was cheap, good exercise, and there were lots of open areas to play it. As people's periods of unemployment stretched longer and longer, tennis courts often fell into disrepair. The 1935 Works Progress Administration put Americans to work fixing up public areas like parks, and tennis courts were high on the priority list. Whether they played tennis themselves or not, most people enjoyed watching the sport or reading about in the paper. One popular sports hero was Helen Wills, who started winning tournaments in her teens. She popularized what we now think of as a tennis outfit: a short-sleeved polo shirt, an above-the-knee skirt (practically scandalous when she first wore one in the 1920s), and a visor. She retired from professional tennis in 1937 in her mid-thirties to pursue other interests, like writing and art. When Wills started playing tennis as a teenager, it was widely believed that tennis was too strenuous for girls and women, but her father, a doctor, thought otherwise. His confidence and her talent and dedication paid off: in 1924, Wills became the first woman to win the gold medal in Olympic tennis.


I wouldn't be surprised if Ruthie's "dilemma" about the tournament was partly a ruse to help Kit have some fun without making her feel like a scrounge.

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