top of page

The Picture Book Buzz

Rena Glickman - The Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

Though I know little about judo, my kids having focused on equestrian sports, fencing, and kendo, I found this biography fascinating. I knew that women's saber finally succeeded in gaining entry into the Olympics in 2004. But I had never heard about the single-minded, determined effort it took to get women's judo into the Olympics. This is a wonderful tribute to a strong, fearless, and tenacious judo master determined to help others believe in themselves.

Rena Glickman, Queen of Judo

Author: Eve Nadel Catarevas

Illustrator: Martina Peluso

Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing/Lerner Publishing Group (2022)

Ages: 7-8



Judo, discrimination, determination, and the Olympics.


Rena Glickman, known professionally as Rusty Kanokogi, was a Jewish girl who grew up to become the preeminent female judo master of her time, overcoming many odds. At a time when judo was a sport strictly for boys and men, Rusty was determined to practice the sport she loved.

Opening Lines:

In 1935, Coney Island was one of the most exciting neighborhoods

in New York City. People came to swim, eat popcorn, gawk at rare

animals, and enjoy thrilling rides. They came to have fun.

What I LIKED about this book:

This is a wonderful look at the journey of a girl from a poor household on Coney Island, New York to a seventh-degree black belt judo master and the Olympics.

Fond of trousers and speaking her mind, Rena "Rusty" Glickman was shunned by many mothers and girls in her neighborhood. So, she grew up strength training with her older brother. Startled when one of her brother's smaller friends "flipped her like a pancake," Rusty was determined to learn how to do this, She repeatedly pestered the instructor until finally he bent the "men only" rule and let her join his YMCA judo class. Though she had to change in a broom closet (there being no women's locker room) and train longer and harder than all the other students, Rusty found a place where "her toughness was accepted—even encouraged."

Text © Eve Nadel Catarevas, 2022. Image © Martina Peluso, 2022.

Rusty internalized and lived judo, thinking about it and practicing moves and strengthening exercises throughout her day, much to the consternation of fellow commuters. After three years, her team won the YMCA judo championship. But when the judge found out she was a woman, he took he medal away.

Text © Eve Nadel Catarevas, 2022. Image © Martina Peluso, 2022.

Unwilling to accept defeat, Rusty traveled to Japan and became the first woman accepted at The Kodokan Judo Institute. While training eight hours a day, she met and married her soul mate. They returned to New York and opened a judo training center. Once men's judo became an Olympic sport in 1964, Rusty used her determination, persuasion, and tenacity to inundate "athletes, referees, politicians, and celebrities," as well as "members of athletic organizations" with letters, visits, and calls. Advocating for the inclusion of women's judo at the Olympics.

Text © Eve Nadel Catarevas, 2022. Image © Martina Peluso, 2022.

In 1980, using her own financing, Rena organized a women's judo world championship, at long last convincing many that women's judo was interesting. I really liked how Martina Peluso's soft-toned illustrations masterfully show the time periods and focus the reader on the white-clad judo students/competitors. And how she mirrored the judo moves by the men at the dojo in the illustration of the women's world cup.

Finally in 1988, women's judo became an Olympic event and, though not a competitor, Rusty Glickman was the USA women's judo team captain; a long, hard fought victory. She continued to champion women's judo all her life and Eve Catarevas gives her the final word in this wonderful biography of a determined, talented, and committed female athlete.

The author's note lists the many awards and honors bestowed on Rena Glickman for her efforts to champion women's judo. Including an award, fifty years later, of that first YMCA medal she'd had taken away. And includes photographs of Rusty, including as the 1988 Olympics coach. Exploring a little known female athlete who had an enormous impact on the sport of judo in general, and women's judo in particular, this is an excellent biography for sport lovers, discussions on inclusion in sports, and fostering a tenacity to believe in ourselves and work hard toward our goals.


- create your own moving paper Ferris wheel like the one Rena Glickman saw on Coney Island.

- do you have a sport you like to do? Draw a picture or write about what you like best about this activity.

- check out other martial arts books - The Grandmaster's Daughter by Dan-ah Kim, Ninja Camp by Sue Fliess, illustrated by Jen Taylor, The Karate Mouse by Geronimo Stilton, or biographies on other female athletes - Unbeatable Betty: Betty Robinson, the First Female Olympic Track & Field Gold Medalist by Allison Crotzer Kimmel, illustrated by Joanie Stone, (Illustrator), How to Solve a Problem: The Rise (and Falls) of a Rock-Climbing Champion by Ashima Shiraishi, illustrated by Yao Xiao, and Jubilee: The First Therapy Horse and an Olympic Dream by KT Johnston, illustrated by Anabella Ortiz.

If you missed the interview of Eve Nadel Catarevas on Monday, find it (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

Follow Me

  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Instagram Social Icon
  • 1473394675_goodreads
  • Pinterest



bottom of page