Title: Becoming Muhammad Ali
Author: James Patterson & Kwame Alexander
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: Fall 2020
I’m not a big boxing fan but after reading this book, I’m now a fan of Muhammad Ali. Becoming Muhammad Ali is a fictional depiction of the heavy weight boxing champion when he was Cassius Clay, mostly focused on his middle grade years. In addition to showing readers how he became a boxer, it covers his difficulties in school and the racism he experienced–both direct and systemic.
The biographical novel is told from two main perspectives. Cassius Clay’s best friend, “Lucky” provides narrative, while Cassius’s voice is given in prose. Black and white illustrations throughout the book add to the texture and intrigue.
I was aware that Muhammad Ali suffered from Parkinson’s disease. I didn’t know that he raised money for famine victims, fought to get American hostages released from Iraq, and worked with the United Nations to become a messenger of peace. Although these things are not covered in detail in Becoming Muhammad Ali, understanding Cassius Clay’s middle grade years really helps readers see how he became involved in all these causes.
My 15-year-old son, a big fan of The Crossover and Rebound, loved Becoming Muhammad Ali even though he’s moved beyond middle grade books. This title would also be great for the classroom and has a great Educator resource. If that’s not enough to entice you, I’ll leave you with this book trailer: