August 19, 2008

Book Review: The Greatest

Posted by at 11:30 am in Reads | Permalink

Biography of Muhammed Ali

What sets Walter Dean Meyer’s biography The Greatest apart from your average sports biography is that his subject is not your average sportsman. Muhammed Ali was the greatest of many things —  throwing lightening fast punches while dancing and calling his opponents ugly in the most creative ways. (“Joe Frazier is so ugly that when he cries, the tears turn around and go down the back of his head.”) Not only did he transform the game, Ali transformed the face of television. In many ways, this biography reads like a history of mass media, or a how-to guide on becoming an immortal celebrity.

Check out this quote. On being nicknamed “The Greatest” Muhammed Ali said: “I’m not the greatest; I’m the double greatest. Not only do I knock ‘em out, I pick the round.” Talk about confidence! I wonder if he really did pick the rounds.

Or this quote: ”There’s not a man alive who can whup me. I’m too fast. I’m too smart. I’m too pretty. I should be a postage stamp. That’s the only way I’ll ever get licked.”

The Greatest is an exceptionally fast-paced story of the biggest personality to hit American culture in recent history. The greatest part about The Greatest (I had to say it at some point.) is that you only need to be remotely interested in boxing, American history, and the idea of celebrity to pick up the book. Meyers’ mad storytelling skills will take care of the rest. I was transformed into a Muhammed Ali fan-girl overnight.

Not convinced? If you have an hour and a half, watch the documentary When We Were Kings. (Although the movie is about two guys — Ali and George Foreman — preparing to punch each other in the face, the movie is rated PG.) He has the presence of mind of someone who rhymes constantly, without missing a beat. Ali’ll capture your curiosity in an instant.

— Cindy, Scholastic.com Editor