Skip to content

Nadia, The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still by Karlin Gray


Written by Karlin Gray
Illustrated by Christine Davenier
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; $17.99, Ages 6-9)


Nadia by Karlin Gray cover photo


Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still introduces us to Nadia Comaneci in the village of Oneşti, Romania, when Nadia is a young girl. In the humorous, vibrant illustrations, the reader experiences Nadia’s love of climbing trees and her impatient and fearless attempts at roller skating and bicycle riding. When Nadia clambers up the family’s Christmas tree and sends it toppling over, Nadia’s parents sign her up for gymnastics lessons.


Interior artwork from Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still by Karlin Gray with illustrations by Christine Davenier, HMH ©2016.


From there, Nadia is spotted one day at school by gymnastics coach, Bela Karolyi, and joins his new gymnastics school. Six-year-old Nadia diligently practices her moves until she masters them. We are shown her failures during early competitions but Nadia perseveres and makes the 1976 Romanian Olympic team. In this competition, though Nadia shines, the audience is astounded when her score reads only 1.00. We soon discover the scoreboard had not been programmed to display numbers above 9.99. Instead of a 1.00, Nadia had scored a perfect 10.00! She goes on to repeat her astounding score seven more times, winning five Olympic medals.

Though parents may be familiar with the story of Nadia Comaneci, Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still retells Nadia’s story in an approachable manner for a new generation. Children will follow Nadia’s journey up to age fourteen, when she wins Olympic gold. Nadia grows from a girl who can’t sit still to one who learns to harness and direct that energy. She gives new meaning to the old adage, “practice makes perfect.”


Nadia by Karlin Gray interior image of Olympics
Interior artwork from Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still by Karlin Gray with illustrations by Christine Davenier, HMH ©2016.


When the 2016 Summer Olympics open, families will be following gymnastics teams and rooting for their favorites. Reading Nadia’s story is an inspirational and timely accompaniment.

Read more about author Karlin Gray here.
Read more about illustrator Christine Davenier here.

  • Reviewed by Christine Van Zandt

Writer, editor, and owner of Write for Success


Co-editor of and writer for SCBWI’s Kite Tales


Share this:

Take a Tumble

Are you the parent of the next Gabby Douglas or Danell Leyva?

Reviewer Debbie Glade takes a look at a great book (to be released November, 2012) that helps children who are interested in gymnastics get started.

With the success of the U.S. Women’s Gymnastic Team from the Olympics this summer, there are many young Americans who dream of becoming champions, too. The Gymnastics Book: The Young Performer’s Guide to Gymnastics ($19.95, Firefly, Ages 7-11) is a wonderful way for those interested in the sport to get started. Written by Elfi Schlegel, a gymnastics medalist from the Canadian National Team and writer Claire Ross Dunn, The Gymnastics Book’s meaty 144 pages is packed with information and excellent photos profiling all the basic gymnastics moves.

After reading this comprehensive guide, any budding gymnast will understand the fundamentals of the sport and the basic technical skills required. The book starts with an introduction that will help your child decide if gymnastics is indeed right for him or her, how to choose the proper coach and place for lessons and what’s needed to get started. Readers will learn how to warm up, practice, master the basic skills, cool down properly and even how to stay healthy and eat right while practicing. In addition, there are chapters on adding rhythm to your program and how competitions work. Plus readers will learn about some of the world’s best gymnasts. Some gymnasts have even written a few tips and insights into their routines or even superstitions they practice when competing. There’s a helpful index at the back of the book as well.

This timely book certainly provides children with a nice, positive introduction to a sport they can enjoy, whether or not they want to compete. The information is comprehensive, and readers are likely to be inspired to not only get started, but also to do their best in the sport. The descriptions of the moves are quite detailed, and when paired with the excellent photos, the proper skills for each move is made quite clear.

Gymnastics is a wonderful and well-respected sport for kids, and even more important, it is a terrific way for kids to get and stay fit and build discipline and confidence. The Gymnastics Book provides a solid beginning to this popular sport.

Share this:
Back To Top