Muhammad Ali Was a Chicken? (Wait! What?); Dan Gutman, illustrated by Allison Steinfeld
Dan Gutman is a well-known author of children’s books and his latest offering is a series of non-fiction reads that take a look at famous faces and reveal some of the more interesting facts and probably lesser-known details about their lives.
You’ve probably heard of the name Muhammad Ali, he was - after all - one of the greatest sporting icons of all time. He was a legend of the boxing ring, he was the man that floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee and liked to remind his opponents that, “His hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see.” But did you know that he got into boxing after a chance meeting with a part-time boxing instructor, or that he wrote poems about his opponents, or that he refused to join the army and faced the possibility of going to prison?
Siblings Paige and Turner know all sorts of irreverent, bizarre and unusual facts along with a few of the more normal things you need to know about Muhammad Ali and they are delighted to share their knowledge with you. The whole book is filled with facts and the kind of information that kids want to know. I mean, who doesn’t want to know that Ali employed a personal sweat-taster and a private magician. Or that as a child he would ask his brother to throw rocks at him so he could practice not getting hit. Or that he talked down a man who was on the verge of jumping out of the window of a tall building.
Every aspect of Ali’s life is covered, from his childhood and early boxing career, to becoming the greatest and the most hated, to retiring and becoming a hero. Gutman gives a rounded picture of Ali, not just as a boxing megastar, but as a man who divided opinion and whose outspoken views often offended. Readers get to learn about the highs and the lows and the good times and the bad times in the life of one of the most charismatic sportsmen the world has ever known.
The easy to read and chatty conversational style will appeal to many readers and there are plenty of lively illustrations that break up the text. Random facts are peppered throughout and are often presented as lists, including: people who share the same birthday with Ali, famous events that happened on the day he was born, unknown facts about his childhood (as a two-year-old, he threw a cheeky left hook that knocked his mother’s tooth out *disclaimer - I cannot actually confirm that it was a left hook), boxing facts, some of Ali’s wise-cracking quips and famous people with alternate names.
Whilst targeted at children, adults will be fighting to get their hands on this book, there is so much information and good trivia packed into it. I learnt a lot about the life of Muhammad Ali and I thoroughly enjoyed it all.
Ali had plenty of wins in the ring, he used his voice, charm and good looks to score victories outside of the ring, and this entertaining and informative read all about the life of the sporting icon is sure to be a knockout with young readers!
Recommended for 8+.
With thanks to Dan Gutman and Norton Young Readers for the advanced reader copy that was received via NetGalley.
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