Reviews for Twelve Rounds to Glory : The Story of Muhammad Ali


Booklist Reviews 2008 February #1
*Starred Review* Smith and Collier takes an in-depth look at Ali's life through 12 rhyming poems. Smith's eccentric rhythm seems at first not to scan, but the longer one reads it aloud, the more it begins to sound like the meter of Ali's famous rhymes. The text is also well-researched (although it is occasionally too easy on Ali as a person), and includes many excellent quotes from both historical sources and Ali himself. Illustrating all this are Collier's bold pictures. Mixing watercolor with cut-paper collage, they are among the best of his illustrious career, capturing both nuance and excitement. Note the facial expression of the young Ali after his bike is stolen; a few brushstrokes capture both his rage and his sadness. On a more cosmic level, whenever Ali is punching, we see an exploding curve of spheres shooting out from his hand. It's a wonderful abstraction that shows not only Ali's power in the ring but also his power outside of it. During the Rumble in the Jungle, the spheres erupt from the stadium itself, like fireworks over Zaire--and all at once, readers see how much that fight mattered, and to how many. Copyright 2008 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2008 Spring
This book provides insight into the nuances of Ali's personality and the racism he fought with words and fists. Smith's extensive rhyming text mimics the cadence of the boxer's own poetic bravado; oversize quotes are interspersed. Collier's glowing, dignified mixed-media art captures the intensity of Ali's facial expressions and the explosive athleticism of the fighters. Timeline. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2008 #1
Any biography of Ali runs the risk of allowing his status as American icon to subsume his complex and significant achievements. Twelve Rounds to Glory definitely showcases the myth over the man; but it also provides insight into the nuances of Ali's personality and the racism he fought with words and fists. Like a medieval epic, Smith's extensive rhyming text extols the greatness of the Greatest from his babyhood -- "Bathed in a beautiful light / from parental love, / brown skin shimmers / with a glow from above" -- through his poignant lighting of the 1996 Olympic flame in Atlanta. Of course it's fitting to tell this story in verse that mimics the cadence of the boxer's own poetic bravado; and, overall, Smith manages to sustain momentum, aided by oversize quotes interspersed with the main text and onomatopoeia during scenes in the ring. Collier's glowing, dignified mixed-media art captures the intensity of Ali's facial expressions and the explosive athleticism of the fighters pictured. The text repeatedly highlights Ali's principled refusal to fight in Vietnam for religious reasons; but it also points out when Ali crossed the line, as when he called Joe Frazier an Uncle Tom. Even the Greatest wasn't perfect, but, as his ongoing battle with Parkinson's indicates, he is, says Smith, "the champ who never quit." Timeline appended. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2007 November #1
Smith's most ambitious project to date celebrates the life of Muhammad Ali, from his Olympic gold medal in 1960, renowned fights with Sonny Liston and Joe Frazier, his personal battle with Parkinson's syndrome to the dramatic lighting of the Olympic torch at the 1996 Atlanta games. The attractive, large-format design and the rap-inspired poems, arranged in 12 rounds like a boxing match, will attract readers. However, the combination of busy and dense layout, long poems with complicated rhymes and rhythms and a large amount of biographical information conveyed in the poems makes the volume daunting, even for experienced readers. Collier's watercolor-and-collage illustrations range from spectacular to bizarre, demonstrating--as in his illustrations for Doreen Rappaport's John's Secret Dreams (2004)--a tendency for his work to be distractingly symbolic. A challenging, sometimes beautiful tribute to a modern-day hero--attractive, impressive and dramatic, but not a knockout. (timeline) (Poetry/nonfiction. 10+) Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 December #4

This paean to the legendary pugilist offers a multifaceted portrait of the fighter as brazen, charitable, fiercely competitive and deeply spiritual. Smith's (I Am America ) poetry recalls the rhymed, rhythmic chants Ali used to inflate his image and taunt opponents ("Fighting opponents and hatred/ with two glowing gloves,/ you spoke your mind freely/ while radiating love"). Each of the dozen chapters represents a period in Ali's life, from his birth through his boxing years, his conversion to Islam and retirement and diagnosis with Parkinson's. The fight scenes don't sugarcoat the violence: "when his rock-solid fist,/ released from way back,/ slingshot your cheek/ and broke your jaw with a crack ." While some rhymes feel forced ("Each victory inching you/ closer to Sonny/ Liston, the champion,/ for title and money"), Smith's chronicle of Ali's life is nonetheless remarkable in its use of a compact, verse format to convey a great deal of biographical material. Collier's (Lift Every Voice and Sing ) dynamic collages capture the emotional weight of both Ali's triumphs and failings; memorably, he depicts the fighters' blows as small ball bearings with fiery tails that radiate outward, heightening the sense of impact. Bold quotes from Ali and others seem to shout across the spreads and, along with Collier's artwork, provide a visual respite from the lengthy columns of verse. This unique and thorough tribute to a complex American hero should readily enthrall those seeking a less conventional biography. Ages 10-up. (Dec.)

[Page 56]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2007 December

Gr 5 Up-- Smith is best known for his high-energy poetry celebrating basketball and other sports, and this biography is his most ambitious undertaking yet. Rap-style cadences perfectly capture the drama that has always surrounded this boxer's life: "Louisville Lip leaps to life/just a few short years/after your first pro fight./Braggin'/and boastin'/and callin' the round,/signifyin'/how your opponent would go down." From Ali's childhood as Cassius Clay, to the realization that even an Olympic gold medal would not shield him from racial injustices, to a career that included three heavyweight titles, and his life after retirement, Smith skillfully weaves together the threads of the boxer's life, including his Muslim faith and his run-ins with the American government during the Vietnam War. Each chapter, or "round," represents a specific period, and selected quotes from Ali and voice-overs from announcers provide a "you are there" feeling. Collier's compelling watercolor collages with their brown overtones beautifully portray Ali's determination and strength. Each spread seamlessly melds powerful artwork and text in a way that transcends what either could be on its own. The thorough recounting of Ali's life, along with back matter that includes a time line and key statistics, makes this a superior choice over Tonya Bolden's The Champ: The Story of Muhammad Ali (Knopf, 2004). Smith's honest portrayal of Ali's strengths and flaws results in an impressive testimony to a man who never backed down from his beliefs. A first purchase for any collection looking for strong, well-rounded biographies: the poetry format will appeal to both seasoned and reluctant readers.--Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA

[Page 158]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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VOYA Reviews 2008 February
This slim, unique work of art profiles the life of Muhammad Ali from his birth in 1942 until his present-day battle with Parkinson's Disease. There is not much in-depth information here, but many of Ali's direct quotes and anecdotes are relayed. Much text is devoted to Ali's various fights, especially the ones against George Forman and Joe Frazier. His strong Islamic faith is credited with many of his successes as well as his opposition to the Vietnam War. Written in verse, the sing-song rap format might not appeal to some. The strength of this book lies in the work of the illustrator. Every page has wonderfully bold-colored, collage-style artwork enhancing the text. It is cataloged as a sports book, but it works better as a lovely picture book. There is a time line at the end of the book. Walter Dean Myers's The Greatest (Scholastic, 2000/VOYA February 2001), is a more moving tribute to the life of Muhammad Ali.-Kathie Fitch Illus. 2Q 2P M J S Copyright 2008 Voya Reviews.

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