CM . . . .
Volume VI Number 20 . . . . June 9, 2000
In the southern United States in the 1950's, black people could not sit in white restaurants . They could not sit at the front of a public bus. Blacks had to drink from separate water fountains and live on the outskirts of cities and towns. They were not able to attend white schools, colleges or universities. They were not allowed to vote. It was into this separate society that Muhammad Ali was born. This is his story.Duplacey, whose name is most often associated with hockey books, brings his fine writing skills to another sport, boxing. As the excerpt taken from the "Introduction" indicates, Duplacey's treatment of Ali extends beyond simply Ali, the professional boxer, and includes Cassius Clay, the amateur and later professional boxer, who becomes reborn as Muhammad Ali, the social activist. Taking an essentially chronological approach beginning with Ali's Louisville birth in 1942 and concluding in 1998 with Ali's participation at a major Australian sporting event, Duplacey commingles the two facets of Ali's life so that young readers can see how each aspect had an impact on the other. Paired chapter titles also indicate contrast. For example, Chapter 4 is called "The Birth of Muhammad Ali" while Chapter 5 is entitled "The Exile of Muhammad Ali." Chapter 6, "The Greatest," is paired with "Decline, Defeat, Disgrace" of Chapter 7. "The Louisville Lip" was one Ali's nicknames, and Duplacey makes good use of many of Ali's "outrageous" remarks as another way of bringing his paper character to life. Unfortunately, the value of the book's six pages of black and white photographs is significantly reduced for they are printed on matte paper, and the contrast in some is so poor as to render them almost "unreadable." The book, which opened with a one page "Factsheet" of Ali's career, concludes with a seven page "Glossary of Boxing Terms."
Though Muhammad Ali may not be a name immediately known to many of today's youth, Muhammad Ali is a book which should be in school libraries for it speaks to more than sport and provides another living window into this continent's social history.
Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children's and adolescent literature in the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.
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