THE GREATEST

MUHAMMAD ALI

A fascinating and fast-paced biography weaves together the remarkable career of fighter Muhammad Ali with the political movements of the ’60s and ’70s. With barely a wink and a nod to Ali’s private life—this is covered in a couple of paragraphs at the end—Myers (145th Street, 2000, etc.) chooses instead to concentrate on the flamboyant boxer’s professional accomplishments and their roots in American racial injustice. “Who was Cassius Clay? He was a black man who had grown up in a racist South, who had seen black men reaching for brooms when they should have been reaching for the stars.” In the ’60s, Ali was a hero to young people, black and white, bringing his politics to bear on everything he did. When he changed his name, upon joining the Nation of Islam, Ali alienated countless sportswriters who refused to believe his conversion was sincere. When he resisted the draft on religious grounds, he was found guilty of refusing induction. Stripped of his world championship title and denied a license to box in all 50 states, Ali chose to fight outside the ring, taking his appeal to the Supreme Court and winning. Myers makes no attempt to disguise his affection for the man who risked his entire professional career for a principle and came back against tremendous odds. Interspersed with riveting fight scenes and explanations of the political and social backdrop, this biography will introduce a generation of readers who know Ali only as the palsied man who lit the 1996 Olympic torch to the man many sportswriters consider the “Athlete of the Century.” (Biography. 10+)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-590-54342-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2000

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Problem-solving through perseverance and friendship is the real win in this deeply smart and inspiring story.

SWIM TEAM

Leaving Brooklyn behind, Black math-whiz and puzzle lover Bree starts a new life in Florida, where she’ll be tossed into the deep end in more ways than one. Keeping her head above water may be the trickiest puzzle yet.

While her dad is busy working and training in IT, Bree struggles at first to settle into Enith Brigitha Middle School, largely due to the school’s preoccupation with swimming—from the accomplishments of its namesake, a Black Olympian from Curaçao, to its near victory at the state swimming championships. But Bree can’t swim. To illustrate her anxiety around this fact, the graphic novel’s bright colors give way to gray thought bubbles with thick, darkened outlines expressing Bree’s deepest fears and doubts. This poignant visual crowds some panels just as anxious feelings can crowd the thoughts of otherwise star students like Bree. Ultimately, learning to swim turns out to be easy enough with the help of a kind older neighbor—a Black woman with a competitive swimming past of her own as well as a rich and bittersweet understanding of Black Americans’ relationship with swimming—who explains to Bree how racist obstacles of the past can become collective anxiety in the present. To her surprise, Bree, with her newfound water skills, eventually finds herself on the school’s swim team, navigating competition, her anxiety, and new, meaningful relationships.

Problem-solving through perseverance and friendship is the real win in this deeply smart and inspiring story. (Graphic fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 17, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-305677-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HarperAlley

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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Despite the differing perspectives, though, it’s never more than a superficial exploration of the differences between...

ATHLETE VS. MATHLETE

Seventh-grade fraternal twins Owen and Russell are as different as night and day, and that spells trouble when both of them make the basketball team.

Owen is the quintessential jock: He plays basketball nearly all the time, and when he isn't playing, he's thinking about it. Russell, more concerned with academics, serves as leader of his school's Masters of the Mind team, a group that competes against other schools to solve tough mental puzzles. He's generally regarded as physically inept. Russell and Owen don't understand each other's worlds, but previously, it hardly seemed to matter. Then the new coach asks Russell to try out for the team because he's tall, and with that height comes a surprisingly satisfying skill in blocking shots. Owen, no longer the sole star athlete in his family, becomes increasingly jealous as his father, who once more or less ignored Russell, begins to focus on both sons. Chapters alternate between the brothers’ first-person accounts, providing readers with a nice look at their diametrically opposed thinking. Russell's chapters are amusing, as he discovers unexpected talents and abilities. Owen comes across as much less attractive; readers may be surprised by the level of his anger and his childish behavior.

Despite the differing perspectives, though, it’s never more than a superficial exploration of the differences between brothers, enlivened by welcome infusions of basketball. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59990-915-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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