As most of you know (or not if you're a recent visitor to my humble blog), this past spring I started doing the occasional book review of select titles of adult fiction/non-fiction. The closest I ever got to doing a review of a YA/Juvenile fiction title, was a tongue planted firmly in cheek review of Alice in Wonderland.
Today's review is a little bit out of the ordinary, as it will be on a self-published Juvenile fiction book, entitled Dad, Me, and Muhammad Ali by Felix Manuel Rodriguez. The reasons why I chose to do a review of a self-pub book is as varied as it is interesting.
First off, I would like to state that I find Felix a very warm and engaging person. I can attest to this simply because Felix and I work for the same government agency and have on occasion crossed paths during my three year stay.
I first found out that Felix was writing a book earlier in the spring when he asked me a few questions about my self-pub book and my experiences with self-publishing. We chatted for awhile about his book and mine, before parting ways.
Fast forward to June. Felix's book came out to great fanfare, so he took a couple of hours of vacation time to hold a book signing at work, selling autographed copies (of which he donated a portion of the total sales to charity) and worked the small but steady stream of visitors to his table (of which I was one). I picked up a copy and as I usually do with most new books I acquire, I read a couple of pages on my way back to my cube.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. I had promised Felix when I purchased the book that I would read it and write a review on my blog. Somehow, things came up and I didn't quite get the chance to start it. However, Felix happened to stop by one afternoon and asked me my opinion on it. I told him that I didn't get a chance to read it yet, but I would bring it home that very night to read.
If you've ever experienced state government on any scale (DMV for example), you know that Murphy's Law is a given. As it so happens, less than twenty minutes after Felix stopped by for a visit than our wonderful payroll system crashed. With time on my hands, I took out the book and began reading it on my break. I finished it thirty minutes later.
The book clocked in at ninety-three pages in an easy to read format (double spaced) specifically designed for the pre-teen. The story is of a son who was playing around in the house with his sister and accidentally damages his father's most prized possession: an autographed picture of Muhammad Ali, and then his unique adventure in trying to secure a replacement for it.
The illustrations for the book are superb and are an excellent introduction to each chapter. Felix's writing style is incredibly warm and he truly puts you in the boy's shoes so that you can feel every emotion, from his sadness over what he did, his sense of optimism over a possible solution, and finally to the happiness he experienced from accomplishing the goal that he set out to do.
This is truly a story for all ages really, not just for the 'tweens. What made this story so refreshing and unique was that for the most part, it happened to Felix. In my opinion, the book isn't so much Juvenile fiction than perhaps Juvenile creative non-fiction.
In addition to it being a very well written story, it was also well researched, as it has an excellent bibliography to it. If you happen to be a bit of a sports nut, or if you want to teach your child about one of boxing's more dynamic individuals, the book also contains a very nice chart on Muhammad Ali's boxing career and a nifty quiz on things about Ali, complete with a certificate.
Felix is among other things, a member of the Society of Children's Book Writer's and Illustrators, a boxing inspector, a vice-president of a local human service organization, a child welfare worker and most importantly, a proud father of two. This is his first book and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who has children and is looking for a good first book for them to read.
Dad, Me and Muhammad Ali can be found at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Iuniverse.com (in both soft and hard cover). Please check out his cool website: http://www.dadmeandali.com/ for more info on Felix and his book, which includes a small excerpt from the book.
Update: Here is a link to another review that was posted on Boxing News Magazine (UK).
Update (9/13/09): Here is a link to another review that was posted on Que Pasa Magazine.
Update (11/11/09): A link to a short interview done by Jill Dearman for the Barnes & Noble Book Club called "Unabashedly Bookish".
Update (12/4/09): A link to a very well produced video trailer for the book. Click here to view.
Update (2/3/10): A link to an award presented to Felix Rodriguez by Mom's Choice Award and a link to an interview done by Desiree Fontaine of WTNH Channel 8 (New Haven CT)
Update (5/3/10): Felix is now available for speaking engagements and his book is now available at the Muhammad Ali Center.