Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X: The Fatal Friendship (A Young Readers Adaptation of Blood Brothers)

Little, Brown/Christy Ottaviano. Oct. 2023. 240p. adapted by adapt. by Margeaux Weston. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316478854.
Gr 5 Up–This middle grade adaptation of Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship Between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X offers an illuminating account of the friendship and falling out of icons Malcolm X and Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali) set against the backdrop of the tumultuous 1960s. Clay was a cocky and controversial boxer, and fiery Malcolm X was the face of the Nation of Islam. Malcom X served as a guide for Clay as the fighter converted to Islam and eventually became Muhammad Ali. Both loyal followers of Elijah Muhammad, they were separated because of the spiritual leader’s machinations to keep his power over the Nation of Islam. As each chapter lays down the path from loyalty to betrayal, readers already in the know will turn pages with dread as the authors expertly build up to the fateful, inevitable conclusion. Those new to the history will slowly piece together the truth until its shocking reveal. The concluding chapter speaks of restoration and reconciliation between Ali and Malcolm X’s family. The authors adeptly find balance between the small, fraternal moments the two men shared in their home lives and the larger-than-life events that have been immortalized in history and popular culture. The narrative is sometimes winding, but patient readers will be rewarded by a nuanced look at the complicated friendship that shaped so much of Black history. An insert of black-and-white photos makes the events even more tangible for young readers.
VERDICT From Civil Rights to Black Pride and Black Lives Matter, there isn’t one social justice movement that these two men haven’t impacted. Purchase for all American history shelves.

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