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Twelve Rounds to Glory: The Story of Muhammad Ali

Page history last edited by Bestow 6 years, 6 months ago


Plot Summary

     Twelve Rounds to Glory: The Story of Muhammad Ali written by Charles Smith and illustrated by Bryan Collier is a pictorial biography of Ali’s life from the time he was born to his lighting of the Olympic Torch in Atlanta in 1996.  It travels through his birth and childhood years depicting how he got into fighting when someone stole his new bike and the cop he reported it to became his trainer.  It progresses onto his first fight at the age of 18 and his Olympic gold medal win in Rome.  He fights his first title fight in February of 1964  against Sonny Liston and becomes stripped of his belt after refusing to go to war.  He becomes a symbol of black pride and a symbol to all to stand up for their beliefs even in spite of his country.  Ali is banned from fighting in the US and appeals his decision as he is determined to fight again.  He fights Joe Frazier, George Forman, and then Frazier again in “The Thrilla in Manila.”  The book shows Ali’s fall from stardom and the defeat of the king by an up-and-coming young gun.  It follows his retirement and his continuous ways of giving to those that needed it most.  Finally, the book concludes discussing some of his personal life and struggle with Parkinson’s but always stressing the work of the champion himself.


Textual Elements

     What makes this book incredible is how its told: using poetic form and each “round” as a chapter of Muhammad’s life.  The poetic verse creates a rhythm for reading that engulfs the reader into the text and keeps their attention throughout, never dropping emotion or excitement even in times that seem a little bit down.  Using some rhyming techniques he creates a flow that can sometimes be easy to read but then will change up to keep you on your toes and engaged.

     Smith takes Ali’s life and turns it into a book filled with themes including standing up for what you believe in and a devoted work-ethic is necessary for success.  He uses Ali’s defiance of the war and standing up to his national government to show how much strength he had and how no one would take from him his beliefs even if they took his belt.  He continued to work hard even through it all and prevailed after years of dedication to his sport and what he believed in.

     Each chapter is a different round in Muhammad’s life.  Smith organizes each round differently, often quoting the announcer in italicized font, using quotes directly from Ali in word art fashion, and using over the top continuous description to put the reader right where he wants.  Smith makes it feel as if the reader is sitting ring side to the biggest fights in history, other times you feel like a voice inside Muhammad’s head telling him to continue on, and still there are other times when you feel like you are just an onlooker, watching the story unfold right before your eyes.




Artistic Elements 


     Bryan Collier illustrates the book using two combined techniques of collage style and watercolor, each giving their own element to the story.  The watercolor is able to present the reader with color and blurred lines while the collage helps bring realism and extra expression to the story.  During the fights, Collier portrays Ali landing a huge punch with the fighters in watercolor and the point where the bunch landed with a series of steel balls with flames trailing behind them to show the devastation of the blow.  In another instance, he shows the setting for “The Thrilla in Manilla” with pictures of real houses in the countryside that is painted in water color and shows the exact location with the steel balls coming out of a stadium. 

     Another important aspect of the illustrations is the way that some text becomes outlined, others colored differently, and others in plain white space.  Each format gives a different attitude, heightening the intensity, showing emotion, or giving off the standard story telling vibe.  


Analysis and Critique

     Collier and Smith create nothing short of a masterpiece in this story.  The use of Smith’s rap inspired flow in the form of poetry combined with Collier’s watercolor collage artwork provide the reader with constant interaction and entertainment.  By using the poetic form in the form of a detailed picture book, Smith provides a reading experience that readers usually do not come into contact with.  He deals with the times in an appropriate manner and controversial issues are addressed with grace and emphasized accordingly.  He shows the dismay of Ali against the war continually to stress the importance of the event but never falls into a trap of expressing his own opinions and sticks to the facts.

     The book was filled with all sorts of messages both explicitly stated and possibly somewhat hidden.  I think that the first one of these would be that Islam is a religion of peace and power through God, rather than what it is commonly viewed as since September 11.  The topic of Muhammad’s religion appears multiple times throughout the book and I feel like it is stressed more than necessary.  Although a crucial part of his character, I don’t know if the depth and repetition of the topic was necessary or essential to the story at times.

I think that the book is an incredible work that exemplifies who Muhammad was and contains some valuable life lessons that can be learned from arguably the greatest boxer or all time.  The poetic style is incredible and provides a dynamic aspect that can be enjoyed in a quick read but can also be delved into more deeply to discover hidden meanings and artistic qualities that may be overlooked in the original read.




Smith Jr., Charles R. Twelve Rounds to Glory: The Story of Muhammad Ali. Illus. Bryan Collier. Caimbridge, MA: Candlewick Press 2007.  



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