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The Champ

The Champ

4.0 1
by Tonya Bolden, R. Gregory Gregory Christie (Illustrator)

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This biography touches on some of the most complex and fascinating aspects of Muhammed Ali's life, such as his conversion to Islam, his refusal to fight in Vietnam, and his penchant for boastful rhymes.


This biography touches on some of the most complex and fascinating aspects of Muhammed Ali's life, such as his conversion to Islam, his refusal to fight in Vietnam, and his penchant for boastful rhymes.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The creators of Rock of Ages: A Tribute to the Black Church present an impressionistic tribute to the man born as Cassius Clay. Bolden shapes a poetic if awkwardly paced narrative that includes self-assured quotes by the fighter, often in his famous couplets, and features type of various fonts, colors and sizes. The author first recounts episodes from Cassius Clay's Louisville, Ky., childhood, among them the familiar story of the theft of the 12-year-old's beloved bicycle. When he pledged that he would "whup" the culprit, an officer advised the "string-beany boy" to learn to fight first. Bolden goes on to spotlight the athlete's triumphs in the ring, his conversion to the Nation of Islam, his refusal to participate in the Vietnam War when drafted and the eventual decline of his boxing career. At its best, the narrative emulates the boxer's catchy rhythms and rhymes, but the story's usually spirited cadence stumbles in spots, making for some flat passages ("By 1964, he had won nineteen straight fights. People started watching Cassius Clay a lot"). Yet vibrant writing soon follows: "With his strong, limber, legs, he'd spring around the ring on the balls of his feet or up on his toes," accompanied by Christie's strongest portrait of the legendary fighter, conveying his intelligence, intensity and impressive physique. Unfortunately, on balance, the stylized, vividly hued acrylic-and-colored-pencil illustrations are as uneven as the text. Ages 5-8. (Dec.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Colorful speeches, interesting page layouts, and poetic writing bring life to the story of this dramatic prize fighter with "fine physique, cheetah eyes and moonbeam smile" who learned to "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" with a "super-fast—whiz-zip"—left jab," followed by "a thunderbolt right- it stunned." In a pre-rapper world, his rhymes were as famous as his speed, his struggles against prejudice and the draft. Perhaps not as well known is how he put his "fame to good use . . . speaking for peace between nations and among the races, spotlighting the plight of the needy, and spreading his joy." Bolden manages to capture all these elements with a voice that well-represents this sport's life hero. 2004, Knopf, Ages 7 to 12.
—Susie Wilde
Kirkus Reviews
Muhammad Ali remains an interesting, colorful persona long after his amazing boxing career. Here the author tells his story in a manner befitting his strong personality, recalling boyhood experiences as the young Cassius Clay finds his avocation and describing key opponents and matches with excitement enhanced with quotes from some of Ali's famous boastful verses. She doesn't merely recreate a play-by-play listing of Ali's sports achievements, but also emphasizes his fierce determination in all his endeavors. Bolden portrays the whole man, including the controversies and disappointments concerned with his conversion to Islam and his refusal to participate in the draft, as well as the physical disabilities that resulted from too many blows to the head. She accomplishes all of this in language that is clear and concise without being condescending. The text pops with a variety of fonts, print size, color and orientation on the page. Christie's strongly hued, highly stylized paintings are eye-catching and well integrated with the text. This is picture-book biography at its best. A fascinating introduction to an intriguing person. (notes, source list) (Picture book/biography. 7-10)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
9.25(w) x 14.30(h) x 0.34(d)
AD820L (what's this?)
Age Range:
5 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Tonya Bolden is the author-editor of many wonderful, critically acclaimed books for adults and children. She lives in New York City.

R. Gregory Christie is a two-time Coretta Scott King Honor Book winner for illustration, most recently for his work on Anne Rockwell’s Only Passing Through, a picture-book biography of Sojourner Truth. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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Champ 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
JackieSue More than 1 year ago
This book is great! It falls into the biography and memoire genre, but you would think it was a picture book when just looking at it. The title itself is a predictor to where the author is taking the book; she wants to show the important role Muhammad Ali in the world of boxing. Tonya Bolden does a wonderful job taking us throught the life of Muhammad Ali from the first day he went into the gym, to the day he lit the Olympic cauldron. The story expresses the high and low points in his career, but kept the theme of he is the greatest throughout. She also did a great job making this book accessible to those who wouldn't necessarily want to read about Ali. The fact that it is in picture book form is great because it not only attracts readers who are interested in the text, but also readers interested in the illustraitions. R. Gregory Christie is the illustrator, and his work is amazing. The pictures are very graphic and visually pleasing to the eye. The paint strokes bring a sense of realness to the characters portreyed. they tell a story without even reading the text on the page. I would reccomend this book for anyone ages 5 to 10, so about kindergarten to fifth grade. It is inspiring and heart felt, and I would definitely want my children to see what a good influence this book could bring to their lives.