Review Blog

Mar 15 2019

Muhammad Ali by Isabel Sanchez Vegara

cover image

Ill. by Brosmind. Little People, Big Dreams series. Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781786037336.
(Ages: 5-9) Recommended. Themes: Determination, Persistence. This is just one title in a huge collection of the Little People, Big Dreams series (including Stephen Hawking, Ella Fitzgerald and Coco Chanel). It is a great introduction to the life of Muhammad Ali, told simply but with honesty. It doesn't skirt around the controversial issues or provide a commentary on whether his choices were wrong or right. It just presents the facts of his life and the way he chose to live his life. It does present him as a champion, but not for because of what he stood for but simply because he stood up.
The biography is chronological, beginning with Ali's childhood in Kentucky and his motivation to learn boxing (someone stole his brand new bicycle) then progressing to his boxing career, his refusal to fight in the Vietnam War and his work for charities. We see as he takes his success in boxing and keeps dreaming bigger (from an Olympic gold medal, to world heavyweight champion). His incredible self-belief is illustrated through his rhymes (Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee).
The cartoonish illustrations work really well, especially in the boxing scenes, however, there is one double-page spread that cuts Ali's face in half and ruins what is otherwise a very poignant illustration. The bright colours keep things interesting and fun and the text is a perfect length: short enough to keep young ones engaged but with enough detail to be useful for school research for older children.
The real message in Ali's inspirational story is that he stood up for his beliefs no matter what it cost him personally and that comes through perfectly in this book. It also highlights that one can have a strong sense of self while also being self-sacrificing. This is a difficult to understand but important message for any young person today. Included in the back is a short photographic timeline and slightly more detailed biography.
Nicole Nelson

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