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MUHAMMAD ALI by Walter Dean Myers


The People’s Champion

by Walter Dean Myers and illustrated by Alix Delinois

Age Range: 5 - 8

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-06-029131-0
Publisher: Collins

Muhammad Ali’s life story is interwoven with significant historical events of the latter half of the 20th century—the American civil-rights movement, the war in Vietnam and the growth of the Nation of Islam—and Myers shows how he used his star status to make the case for the rights of African-Americans, conscientious objection and religious freedom as well as boosting his own athleticism. Delinois’s emotive style packs a prismatic punch of its own. Bold brushstrokes create scenes and are overlaid and outlined with frenetic multi-hued pencil lines in a style reminiscent of Leonard Jenkins’s. The total effect is energetic and disorienting, getting to the raw emotional impact of victory, loss, confrontation and peace. Myers’s prose account of Cassius Clay’s metamorphosis into the world heavyweight boxing champion is enlivened by (unsourced) quotations from friends, family and The Greatest himself, but it suffers from awkward transitions and occasionally incomplete contextualization for the audience. Despite its arresting visuals, it does not replace other such treatments as Jim Haskins’s Champion, illustrated by Eric Velasquez (2002), or Tonya Bolden’s The Champ, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (2004). (Picture book/biography. 5-8)