Written by Isabel Sánchez Vegara
Illustrated by Brosmind
Published by Frances Lincoln ISBN: 978-1-78603-733-6
Reviewed by Karl Andy Foster
The life of one of The Greatest is richly evoked in this picture book. It illustrates his enduring legacy and the inspirational story behind his success.
Muhammmad Ali was one of my heroes. As a boy I watched his fights with excitement and pride. His poetic taunts and quick-witted ripostes brought a smile to my face every time. I am pleased to see a publication like this aimed at young children and he is a most fitting subject for the expansion of the ‘Little People, Big Dreams’ popular line of books. Physicist Stephen Hawking also receives the same veneration.
The bold cover of this book shows you a hero athlete drawn in simple line and block colours style, posing ready for a fight. This perfect bound book packs a punch with it bright and vibrant end papers – POW! BAM! and OUCH!
From the welcome spread it is clear that the authors wish you to be aware that this is a significant product and a rare one at that. The quirky line work is loose, curvaceous with balletic compositions. Brosmind’s work adds a playful take on this subject with changes of scale, bold expressions and Ali metamorphosing into Butterfly and Bee.
A beautiful boy with a sense of righteousness is hell bent on exacting his vengeance upon a thief. His indignation is channeled into a more creative and constructive force thanks to the intervention of a community minded Police Officer.
The spread with the fight posters and prizes acts as a fitting tribute to this man of passion and integrity. He talked the talk and walked the walk – he inspired generations of sports fans and he is a towering role model for many African Americans.
The inclusion of a photographic timeline is problematic for me. It suggests that illustration isn’t a convincing enough medium to promote celebrity. I do agree that the written content is useful in this section and I have been enthusiastically quoting the words he lived by “Don’t count the days, make the days count.”
In a time when it was extremely dangerous to speak out and stand up for something principled, Ali showed that his true power was not only in the ring but also on the world stage. An Olympic Boxing Champion in 1960 who used his influence to support many causes and when he lit the flame at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 there wasn’t a dry eye in the stadium.