The Champ: The Story of Muhammad Ali

Book review by
Dawn Friedman, Common Sense Media
The Champ: The Story of Muhammad Ali Book Poster Image
Terrific, kid-friendly bio on a sports great.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Violence & Scariness

For a book about boxing, it's pretty violence-free, but it's still about boxing.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that if you're not a fan of boxing, you may not love this book. Also, big issues like racism, the Vietnam War, and religious beliefs are touched on here, which may lead to some discussions. When talking about Ali's conversion to Islam, the book says, "Many people feared and despised the Nation of Islam because it preached that white people were devils."

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What's the story?

Young Cassius Clay becomes Muhammad Ali during a tumultuous time in American history.

Is it any good?

Using dazzling, sometimes rhyming prose printed in a funky font, this book pays wonderful tribute to Ali's own fancy footwork and clever taunts. Most kids today likely have no idea who Muhammad Ali is, but they deserve this kind of introduction to the charismatic, champion athlete both for his own impressive history and a better understanding of the tumultuous times in which he became The Champ. The book effectively shares Ali's humble beginnings and credits his commitment and impressive tenacity in helping him persevere.

Ali was more than an athlete, and his story is an impressive one. Smart, charismatic and driven, he stood up for what he believed in (refusing the draft) in spite of being threatened with prison. However your family looks back at those difficult times, his story is a good way to explore American history. Parents may want to give it a read-through before story time to prepare themselves for age-appropriate discussions about race, religion, or the Vietnam War. Or perhaps kids will be more focused on the vibrant, choppy, colorful pictures that -- like the font and liberal quotes -- help convey the action as well as the difficulties of that time.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why Ali was able to persevere. What character traits do they see in him that allowed him to overcome so many obstacles?

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