Me and Muhammad Ali

Penguin/Nancy Paulsen. Oct. 2022. 32p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781524739881.
Gr 2-4–Langston is excited to learn his hero, Muhammad Ali, is visiting his neighborhood. He loves Ali, not only for his athleticism but for his poetry. In fact, he imitates it on the playground: “I’m smart as a fox and as fast as a hound. I can sneak up on you without making a sound.” Langston prepares to see Ali by getting his hair shaped to look just like the champ’s; there’s a hurdle, but his hero steps in and saves the day. Langston feels inspired by the meeting and creates a new verse to share. The poetry uses a different font, bursting forth from Ali’s and Langston’s mouths with a pow. The illustrations in colored pencil and acrylic vibrate with energy. The people and neighborhood are shown in detail and convey everyone’s personality. An author’s note explains why Ali appealed to Asim, and that Langston’s experience was based on how his own mother met the champ. If the prose narration falls flat in a spot or two, when it resorts to verse it soars.
VERDICT A delightful story about meeting one’s hero and feeling empowered by it, this heartwarming book is a strong first purchase and is bound to be a story hour hit.

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