Parents' Guide to

Becoming Muhammad Ali

By Kyle Jackson, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Lyrical novel traces childhood, evolution of sports legend.

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Alexander's poetry is exciting and evocative, filled with nostalgic images of Black Southern life and glimpses of the troubled times that Clay grew up in. The imagery comes alive even more due to the striking cartoon-style illustrations by Dawud Anyabwile. The style of the storytelling is easy to read and understand, packing a ton of information and emotion into short, digestible bursts. Because the story focuses on Clay's youth, it highlights universally relatable themes about the difficulties of adolescence, feeling torn between friends and romantic interests and other passions and pursuits, and the struggle to find your place in the world.

For kids who may not be familiar with the heyday of boxing as an American pastime, the book serves as a great introduction and a jumping off point for further exploration. As a novel about life in the Jim Crow South, it also has the potential to get young readers thinking and talking about the troubling history of segregation and racial oppression. While the brief epilogue may leave readers wanting to know more about the life and legacy of Muhammad Ali the boxer and iconic activist, this coming-of-age story does an excellent job of showing how the experiences of young Cassius Clay made him into the man who would one day and forever be known as "The Greatest."

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