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The Greatest: Muhammad Ali

by Walter Dean Myers

Published by Scholastic, 2001
172 pages
ISBN: 0-590-54342-3

Ages 11 and older

Do most teenagers today know the name Muhammad Ali? If they do, they probably know of Ali the boxer, who once reigned supreme. It is Ali's career as a boxer that is the focus of this captivating biography that incorporates lively accounts of some of the key fights in his career. But in the course of describing the years when Ali was rising to the top of the boxing world and defending or trying to reclaim his status as heavyweight champion, author Walter Dean Myers also reveals a man who is worthy of admiration for so much more than his feats in the ring. Gaining recognition as boxer during the turbulent times of the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War, Ali was a public figure who refused to ignore the politics of the times in which he lived. He refused to compromise his personal convictions, even when his actions, such as filing as a conscientious objector and later refusing induction into the U.S. army, jeopardized his career. When Ali joined the Nation of Islam, many thought he was a pawn of its leaders, but Myers sees a man who was living by his beliefs–no one's pawn but a deeply religious individual and a fierce believer in Black independence and pride. Myers's own admiration for Ali clearly influences this biography but does not obstruct or obscure it; rather, it shines a light on the character behind all the bluster and boasting for which Ali was also known. Myers does not wholly ignore Ali's personal life–he makes clear there is much that could be written about, but he also provides an inspiring commentary on his reasons for focusing on the public man. "In his private life, [Muhammad] Ali is revealed to be a man of human faults and human weaknesses," author Walter Dean Myers writes in his introduction."I appreciate the ‘normal' Muhammad Ali, but I choose to write about The Greatest....the man who represented so many views, who personified the needs of so many Americans...I look upon him as an American, as a fighter, as a seeker of justice, as someone willing to stand up against the odds, no matter how daunting those odds, no matter how big his foe." CCBC categories: Biography and Autobiography; Historical People, Places, and Events.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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