Another Alan Gibbons book, he is certainly versatile. The Greatest is in Barrington Stoke's FYI range, that's 'Fiction with Stacks of Facts', like The Number 7 Shirt I reviewed previously.
I think the FYI books are perfect for reading partnerships. I can imagine a partner reading the main story and a reading mentor reading the more tricky fact bits. These two styles are nicely separated by different fonts.
The Greatest is all about Ali, a twelve year old Muslim boy, who has had his bike stolen by a local bully. Just like Muhammad Ali! With the greatest boxer of all time as inspiration, Ali takes on the biggest fight of his life. He'll be up against the racist bully that nicked his bike.
The first half of the book is the big build up to the match. Not much happens but we learn a lot about Ali and the tension builds nicely. The rest of the book is the fight itself. This feels very well judged with the bulk of the book centred on the crucial match.
Muhammad Ali often won despite the odds, using brains as well as strength. He knew he was an inspirational figure. By the end of this story not only has Ali's life changed, but the life of his bully opponent has been altered too.
It is clear author, Alan Gibbons, has a deep passion for Ali, as he says Muhammad Ali is "much more than just a sports man"! This is born out in the facts and fiction in The Greatest.