Muhammad Ali: Champion of the World

Overview

In the history of legendary boxers, there was Joe Louis and Sonny Liston . . . and then, “the heavens opened up, and there appeared a great man descending on a cloud, jump-roping into the Kingdom of Boxing. And he was called Cassius Clay.” Clay let everyone know that he was the greatest boxer in the world. He converted to the Nation of Islam, refused to be drafted into a war in which he didn’t believe, and boxed his way back to the top after being stripped of his title. The man that came to be known as Muhammad ...
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Overview

In the history of legendary boxers, there was Joe Louis and Sonny Liston . . . and then, “the heavens opened up, and there appeared a great man descending on a cloud, jump-roping into the Kingdom of Boxing. And he was called Cassius Clay.” Clay let everyone know that he was the greatest boxer in the world. He converted to the Nation of Islam, refused to be drafted into a war in which he didn’t believe, and boxed his way back to the top after being stripped of his title. The man that came to be known as Muhammad Ali was heard in a voice no one will ever forget.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

With biblical references and a reverential tone, this lyrical story of Muhammad Ali paints the fighter (and the history of African-American boxers) in mythic proportions: "In the beginningwas Jack Johnson." A subsequent spread features posters of Joe Louis and Sonny Liston, but the grand introduction is saved for Ali, shown running in the rain by night: "And the heavens opened up,/ and there appeared a great man/ descending on a cloud, jump-roping/ into the Kingdom of Boxing./ And he was called Cassius Clay." Roca's (Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing) strikingly realistic oil illustrations pack a powerful punch, and his use of light recalls Edward Hopper. He also captures subtle and overt emotions in facial gestures-Ali exudes braggadocio before his match with Liston, and in another scene, white reporters' faces register skepticism at his boasts. Winter's (Diego) cadenced, non-rhyming verse highlights just a few episodes from Ali's career and glorifies him as a king and near-miraculous savior, rather than emphasizing hard work on his part, but the result is no less inspiring ("Muhammad Ali was a new kind of boxer-/ and a new kind of person./ And he was creating a new way/ for African Americans to be"). Alongside the veneration is the subtle message that children, too, can achieve all that they imagine. Ages 4-8. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Winter first introduces early black boxing champions Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, and Sonny Liston. Then "the heavens opened up" and Cassius Clay appears, vowing to be "the greatest of all time." He talks boldly as he fights and wins. When he joins the Nation of Islam, he changes his name to Muhammad Ali and speaks out against racism. His refusal to be drafted into the army causes his title to be taken away. He fights in court then comes back to "the greatest fight EVER…the Rumble in the Jungle" in Africa against George Foreman. There he becomes Champion again in triumph. There is a mythic quality to the text, accentuated by the use of several sizes of type that add punch to the words. Roca's oil-painted scenes also contribute to the mythic feeling. Naturalistic paintings are dramatically stripped bare of any distracting details. There are reporters and of course opponents but the spotlight is always on Ali, unchanging over the years. A note adds current information. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal

Gr 2-5
Winter and Roca offer a rousing tribute to Ali's spirit, determination, and strength of will in this picture-book biography. With strong, declarative language laced with religious phrases, it portrays Ali as "a kind of prophet-larger than life, larger than just a sports hero." Briefly limning the champions who preceded him-Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, and Sonny Liston-the author announces Ali's arrival with theatrical bombast: "And the heavens opened up,/and there appeared a great man/descending on a cloud, jump-roping/into the Kingdom of Boxing." Ali proved triumphant in the boxing ring and forged a bold path: "TALKING and TALKING and TALKING and TALKING." Ali spoke out against racism; refused to fight in the Vietnam War; and boxed, danced, and talked his way to his greatest fight, 1974's "Rumble in the Jungle" versus George Foreman. Winter's highly charged prose is well matched by Roca's eye-catching oil paintings, which vividly capture Ali's proud, defiant character and detail the racism he encountered and the hero worship he inspired. This is not a comprehensive biography, but it does a fine job of introducing readers to Ali's life and legacy.-Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
Starred review, Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2007:
"Biblical syntax and cadences lift The Greatest from sports legend to prophet in this remarkable homage."

Starred review, Booklist, February 2, 2007:
“All of Ali’s considerable charisma is vividly captured by Roca’s oil paintings.”

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616805548
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 2/10/2010
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.80 (w) x 11.20 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Jonah Winter is the author of many acclaimed picture books, including Dizzy, about Dizzy Gillespie; Diego, a biography of Diego Rivera; Frida, about artist Fried Kahlo, which was a Parents’ Choice Gold Medal winner; and The 39 Apartments of Ludwig Van Beethoven. He lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

François Roca is the illustrator of several books, including Twenty-One
Elephants
and Still Standing by April Prince Jones. He lives in Paris.

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