cover image Becoming Muhammad Ali

Becoming Muhammad Ali

James Patterson and Kwame Alexander, illus. by Dawud Anyabwile. Little, Brown/Patterson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-3164-9816-6

Newbery Medalist Alexander (The Crossover) teams up with Patterson (the Max Einstein series) to deliver this propulsive fictionalized biography of boxer, activist, and cultural icon Muhammad Ali, beginning with his early life as Cassius Clay. Structured in “rounds” in lieu of chapters, anecdotal narration describes his rise to prominence, starting with 16-year-old Cassius’s 1958 fight for the Golden Gloves championship and ending with his 2016 death after receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Alternating narrators tell the story: prose lines by Lucky, a childhood friend of Cassius’s, gives readers a front-seat view of the boxer’s young life in the West End of Louisville, Ky.—his supportive working-class parents, his dislike of school, and his experiences with segregation—and his gradual ascent from Golden Gloves hopeful to three-time world heavyweight champion. In spare, witty lines of free verse, Cassius’s narrative illustrates his charisma, drive, and work to, in his beloved grandfather’s words, “know who you are, Cassius. And whose you are. Know where you going and where you from.” Black-and-white art by Anyabwile (The Crossover graphic novel adaptation) visually anchors scenes both domestic and iconic in this powerful, accessible view of a fascinating figure. Ages 8–12. [em](Oct.) [/em]