Skip to main content

Muhammad Ali: A Champion is Born by Gene Barretta, illustrated by Frank Morrison


Muhammad Ali: A Champion is Born, written by Gene Barretta and illustrated by Frank Morrison has a fantastic narrative structure that helps young readers begin to understand the historic importance of Ali by focusing on the childhood incident that lead him to the boxing ring and a future as the People's Champion. Morrison's oil illustrations are painterly and full of energy and action.



Muhammad Ali: A Champion is Born begins powerfully with a lone punching bag in an empty gym (and an explanation for young readers regarding Ali's name change) and ends with an empty boxing ring. Three two-page spreads begin the narrative, giving details of Ali's famous matches with Sonny Liston, George Foreman and Leon Spinks and including his most famous quotes. Then the narrative jumps back to 1954 where twelve-year-old Cassius Clay has his brand-new bicycle stolen while visiting the Louisville Home Show for black merchants. This life experience makes up the bulk of Muhammad Ali: A Champion is Born and once you know the story and amazing coincidence it's easy to understand why. Seeing his distress at having his bike stolen, a woman on the street tells Clay to go back into the building to the basement and ask for Officer Joe Martin. After hearing Clay's story, Martin tells him he'd better learn to fight before he tries to whup the bike thief. Columbia Gym becomes Clay's second home, Officer Martin his trainer. Baretta captures Clay's bravado, confidence and determination as a young man, showing him running alongside his school bus and practicing his reflexes by having his brother Rudy throw rocks at him.

The penultimate page features Ali's quote (all of his quotes are in bold caps), "DON'T QUIT. SUFFER NOW AND LIVE THE REST OF YOUR LIFE AS A CHAMPION," along with his gold medal win at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. The final page shows Ali's in a suit, pen and paper in his hand, the People's Champion. Barretta tells readers that Ali fought against religious and racial discrimination, striving to be a positive role model for them. Ali believed, "I HAD TO PROVE YOU COULD BE A NEW KIND OF BLACK MAN. I HAD TO SHOW THE WORLD." I think it's important for young readers to read this quote and think (and talk) about it. Many don't realize that, even after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended public segregation and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, there were still deeply inaccurate, prejudicial, beliefs  about African Americans held by many. And there still are. Barretta includes two pages of biographical backmatter and a page with a bibliography, suggested reading and websites. Muhammad Ali: A Champion is Born is a great introduction to a great man that should inspire readers to want to learn more.

Source: Review Copy





Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!

Be…

POP-UP: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, paper engineering by Ruth Wickings, illustrations by Frances Castle RL: All ages

POP-UP:  Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book with paper engineering by Ruth Wickings and illustrations by Frances Castle is THE COOLEST BOOK EVER!!!  I know that I haven't dedicated much time to pop-up books here, but they have always held a special place in my heart, and the phrase "paper engineering" is a favorite of mine. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I did go through a paper engineering phase when I was ten or so. I would sneak off to the back of the classroom during independent work periods and go to town on the construction paper and glue and make these little free-standing dioramas. A huge fan of The Muppet Show (the original), I reconstructed the all-baby orchestra from an episode, drawing and coloring each baby and his/her instrument then gluing them onto a 3D orchestra section I had crafted out of brown construction paper.  I also made a 3D version of Snidely Whiplash throwing Nell off a cliff with Dudley Do-Right wa…

How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers

How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers remains the most read post on my blog since I wrote it in 2012. Because of this, I have cleaned up this post, tightened the writing and added in any pertinent information that has come about since it originally ran. When I first started books4yourkids.com in August of 2008, I was scrambling for content, finding my purpose and my voice and not always doing my best writing. How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers was one of the first articles I wrote and, as a bookseller and a book reviewer, and now as an elementary school librarian where I have gone from working with kids reading well beyond their grade level to kids reading well below, this philosophy remains my organizing principle and central focus when reading and recommending books to parents and children. 

In the interest of my mission and the attention this article continues to receive, I have updated and expanded this article and included a guide to using …