Muhammad Ali: A Champion Is Born (Hardcover)


Muhammad Ali: A Champion Is Born (Hardcover)

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali comes to life for young readers. Close-up, in-your-face oil illustrations and a lively text design with plenty of onomatopoeia (”POW! POW! POW!”) and quotations from the champ gives readers a sense of the life and style of the great Muhammad Ali. (Kirkus Reviews)

woodson Carter G. Woodson

February is Black History Month and HarperCollins has many new books to celebrate the occasion.  Since I primarily focus on early education, I will be discussing two brand new picture books for this month and will give two recommendations for middle grades and young adults at the end of each review.  First, let’s start with a little history lesson on Black History Month.  The precursor to Black History Month was created in 1926 by black historian Carter G. Woodson (the son of former slaves) who wanted to celebrate it during the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.  The week of recognition became accepted and has been extended as the full month of February in 1976.

Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. (1942-2016)

Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. was born on January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky and grew up among racial segregation.  At the age of twelve, Cassius Clay was riding his brand-new red-and-white bicycle through the streets of Louisville, excited by his prized possession.  However, this proud and bold young boy had his bike stolen and he was ready to fight it out.  Interestingly, it was Louisville police officer and boxing coach, Joe E. Martin, that told Cassius he needed to learn how to box first since he was fuming that he was going to beat up that thief. This one pivotal moment set him on his path to become the Greatest of All Time and soon after, Martin began to train Cassius as an amateur boxer.  This would be the day he discovered boxing. And a champion was born.

The Louisville Lip. The Greatest. The People’s Champion. Muhammad Ali.

In the fascinating new picture book biography, Muhammad Ali: A Champion Is Born, of the late global icon Muhammad Ali, author Gene Barretta and Coretta Scott King award-winning illustrator Frank Morrison tell the unforgettable childhood story of this legendary boxing champion.  While Cassius became one of the most recognizable faces in the world, and before all the nicknames and the championships, this story focuses on the man behind the legend, one that converted to Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali.  In 1962, Clay met Malcolm X, who soon became his spiritual and political mentor and by 1964 Clay would be renamed Muhammad Ali.  He became a symbol for activism and being anti-establishment as well as a world champion boxer, social activist, and pop culture icon.  Ali is regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time by boxing commentators and historians and this book is a great resource of Ali’s rise to that level of fame.

Back matter includes biographical overview, photos, bibliography, and more resources.

About the Author:  Gene Barretta is an award winning author and illustrator of children’s books. Among his honors are the Carolyn W. Field Award and the Bank Street Cook Prize Honor. His books include, “Lincoln and Kennedy: A Pair to Compare,” “Now & Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin,” “Neo Leo: The Ageless Ideas of Leonardo Da Vinci,” “Jack the Tripper,” “Dear Deer: A Book of Homophones,” “Zoola Palooza: A Book of Homographs” and “Timeless Thomas: How Thomas Edison Changed Our Lives.” Gene has contributed illustration and animation to Sesame Street and Between the Lions. He has also designed characters for The Jim Henson Company. He lives in Wynnewood, PA. For more information on Gene and his work, please visit:

About the Illustrator:  Frank Morrison visited the Louvre Museum in Paris while touring with his dancing group and was inspired to choose painting as his new path. He is the winner of the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent for Jazzy Miz Mozetta by Brenda C. Roberts, and he has illustrated Queen of the Scene by Queen Latifah.

Muhammad Ali: A Champion Is Born (Hardcover)

List Price: $ 17.99 (Available through Amazon Prime)

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