Review of Me and Muhammad Ali

Me and Muhammad AliMe and Muhammad Ali
by Jabari Asim; illus. by AG Ford
Primary    Paulsen/Penguin    32 pp.    g
10/22    978-1-5247-3988-1    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5247-3989-8    $10.99

Young Langston is thrilled when he sees a flyer announcing that Muhammad Ali, “boxing champion of the world,” is coming to town for a “meet & greet” at the high school. Ford’s quiet city ­neighborhood scenes give way to two powerful images of Ali himself. First the boxer jabs in front of a yellow background with frenetic purple and white swirls resembling butterfly wings, his famous words “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee” ­incorporated into the text. In the following spread his boxing glove is aimed straight at readers, as Ali throws down one of his signature poetic boasts. While excitedly waiting for the event, ­Langston gets “his afro shaped to look…like the champ’s” and demonstrates his own ­Ali-inspired swagger: “I’m smart as a fox / and fast as a hound. / I can sneak up on you / without making a sound.” When the big day finally arrives, Langston and his mother are denied admission (it’s for high school students only), but help comes from a surprising source. The lively third-person narrative and the bright acrylic and colored-pencil illustrations are a one-two punch that will hook readers. An author’s note adds more information about Ali’s influence and explains the story’s roots in an actual event.

From the November/December 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Dean Schneider

Dean Schneider teaches eighth grade English at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee.

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