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Book Review: Becoming Muhammed Ali by James Patterson and Kwame Alexander

Becoming Muhammed Ali, by James Patterson Kwame Alexander, published by Jimmy Patterson, 2020. ISBN 978-0316498166

Yes, this book lived up to the hype (starred reviews by School Library Journal, Horn Book, Publishers Weekly, and Kirkus Review).

Yes, even if you’re not a boxing fan, this book is incredible.

Yes, middle grade sports fans will go nuts for it.

Yes, it reads just like historical fiction instead of a biography.

Yes, the full page, graphic novel-ish illustrations by Dawud Anyabwile are a perfect addition to Ali’s biography.

Yes, this would be a great choice for an audio book. It’s narrated by Kwame Alexander, whose smooth tone is just addicting. Even if your child chooses to read the physical book, listening to Kwame read the beginning will help set their reading voice up for success. Click here to for the sample.

I also really enjoyed this short animated clip that features some of the artwork and Kwame’s voiceover as another way to get children hyped up before they try the book.

But also…

No, it might not be obvious to children that Cassius Clay is Muhammed Ali. It would be wise to share that ahead of time, since it’s not until the end of the book that it’s mentioned, and without much detail.

No, I didn’t enjoy the parts of the book James Patterson wrote nearly as much as the story in verse by Kwame Alexander. And my bet is that your children won’t either. Alexander’s poetic style is perfect for Ali’s always-on-the-go, quick witted, positive Ali.

Kwame Alexander (writing in verse) and James Patterson (writing in prose) create a little something for everyone.

No, I don’t think it will be obvious to the reader that it’s not your typical biography, given the book is written from the point-of-view of Ali’s friend, since this is unusual for most juvenile biographies. I suggest pointing that out from the start.

No, this book isn’t just for the suggested kids 8-12, it’s for anyone interested in learning more about Cassius Clay, boxing, or life in the time of Jim Crow laws.

Our warning: you may have to share answers to questions about Parkinson’s disease, the in’s and out’s of boxing, and segregation. All of which may make your child more prepared for the world.

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