­Becoming Muhammad Ali

Little, Brown. Oct. 2020. 320p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780316498166.
Gr 4-8–Before the indomitable Muhammad Ali was known as a boxing legend and social justice leader, he was Cassius Clay, a young dreamer and fighter from Louisville, KY. As a young Black man, Cassius’s childhood in the 1950s is shaped by the Southern United States’ Jim Crow laws. Working towards a better life seems impossible; yet Cassius is a firm believer in who he is and where he’s from. But where is he going next? It all begins with a stolen bike, a boxing ring, and unrelenting determination. Told in “Ten Rounds,” this utterly delightful story about Ali’s childhood is a smash hit. Patterson handles narrator Lucky’s prose while Alexander crafts Cassius’s poetry. This creates a distinct, clear flow for each Round, starting with a thought-provoking intro which then progresses into Cassius’s rhythmic expansion of events. Despite many roadblocks along his boxing journey, Cassius’s positive, winning demeanor reveals that the biggest hurdle when pursuing a passion is one’s mindset. Though the overarching narrative ends with the 1959 Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions, the “Final Round” chapter overviews Ali’s life in and out of the ring. A bibliography is included.
VERDICT The overwhelming positivity filling the pages encourages readers to never be afraid of who they are, making this story golden. Get this uplifting, informative book onto library shelves and into kid’s hands.

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