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He was the greatest. Remember The Champ with these biographies, all recommended at their time of publication by The Horn Book Magazine and Guide. Reviews reprinted from The Horn Book Guide Online.


bolden_champBolden, Tonya  The Champ: The Story of Muhammad Ali
Gr. K–3     40 pp.     Knopf     2004

Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. This carefully documented biography is informative, lively, and provides an appealing introduction to the man who had good reason to say, “I’m the greatest.” Well-paced, the book ends with a short description of Ali’s campaigns for human rights and international understanding in recent years. Bold illustrations appropriately emphasize the boxer’s head and hands.

haskins_championHaskins, Jim  Champion: The Story of Muhammad Ali
Gr. K–3     40 pp.     Walker     2002

Illustrated by Eric Velasquez. Plainspoken, economical prose traces the boxer’s life from his Kentucky childhood and early amateur career, through the years he spent as heavyweight champion. Haskins’s text also ably portrays Ali’s personal and spiritual journeys, while Velasquez’s page-dominating oil paintings offer pleasing stylistic variations, from montages and action panel sequences to double-page spreads. A timeline is included.

myers_muhammad aliMyers, Walter Dean  Muhammad Ali: The People’s Champion
Gr. K–3     40 pp.     HarperCollins/Amistad     2010

Illustrated by Alix Delinois. “I am the greatest fighter in the world. I am the greatest poet in the world! I am the greatest! I am the greatest!” Myers begins this exuberant picture book when Muhammad Ali was still known as Cassius Clay and includes plenty of quotations from the celebrated athlete. Delinois’s painterly illustrations express the famous boxer’s energy as well as the political upheaval around him.

shange_float like a butterflyShange, Ntozake  Float like a Butterfly
Gr. K–3     40 pp.     Hyperion/Jump      2002

Illustrated by Edel Rodriguez. The text, more impressionistic than informational, touches on young Cassius Clay’s belief in a “colored Superman” and his questions about whether heaven is segregated, then zips through career highlights and personal challenges. The spare, lyrical prose and appealing mixed-media illustrations celebrate the perseverance, generosity, and humanity of this “hero for all time.” An appended chronology fills in factual gaps.

winter_muhammad aliWinter, Jonah  Muhammad Ali: Champion of the World
Gr. K–3     40 pp.     Random/Schwartz & Wade     2008

Illustrated by François Roca. Winter borrows from Genesis to bring to life this picture book account of Muhammad Ali’s boxing career: “IN THE BEGINNING was Jack Johnson…” Packed with all-capitalized, oversized words, the nimble text is visually powerful. In perfect counterpoint are Roca’s realistic full-page oil paintings rendered in muted tones with an occasional punch of red.



denenberg_aliDenenberg, Barry  Ali: An American Champion
Gr. 4–6     83 pp.     Simon     2014

The author chronicles the life and career of boxer Muhammad Ali — from his childhood as Cassius Clay to his 1960 Olympic gold medal to his igniting the flame of the 1996 games — through the guise of fictional news articles, letters, and interviews incorporating historical events (civil rights movement, Vietnam War, etc.). Archival photographs, sidebars, and an extensive timeline supplement the informative text.

schulman_muhammad aliSchulman, Arlene  Muhammad Ali: Champion
Gr. 4–6     128 pp.     Lerner     1996

In this well-balanced biography, Schulman presents the outspoken, charismatic boxing champion. Thorough, yet concise, the book covers the fighter’s childhood, his amateur and professional career, his civil-rights work, and his stance against the Vietnam War. Illustrated with black-and-white photographs, the biography is a solid introduction to the significant athlete.

smith_12 rounds to glorySmith, Charles R., Jr.  Twelve Rounds to Glory: The Story of Muhammad Ali
Gr. 4–6     80 pp.      Candlewick     2007

Illustrated by Bryan Collier. This book provides insight into the nuances of Ali’s personality and the racism he fought with words and fists. Smith’s extensive rhyming text mimics the cadence of the boxer’s own poetic bravado; oversize quotes are interspersed. Collier’s glowing, dignified mixed-media art captures the intensity of Ali’s facial expressions and the explosive athleticism of the fighters.



myers_greatestMyers, Walter Dean  The Greatest: Muhammad Ali
Middle school, high school     172 pp.     Scholastic     2001

This passionate tribute focuses on describing how Ali dealt with the social turbulence of his times and with many challenges from strong boxing contenders. Supplemented with full-page dramatic and sharp black-and-white photos mostly highlighting memorable events in Ali’s boxing career, the book is more a portrait of Ali’s character and cultural impact than a narrative of his life.

tessitore_muhammad aliTessitore, John  Muhammad Ali: The World’s Champion
Middle school, high school     144 pp.     Watts     1998

Impact Biography series. In this well-documented biography, Tessitore details not only the fights Ali faced in the ring, but the battles fought throughout his life. The comprehensive account covers Ali’s controversial involvement in boxing, the civil rights movement, Vietnam protests, the Islamic faith, and international humanitarian efforts. Black-and-white photographs accompany the informative text.


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