Thursday, April 28, 2016

Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X by Ilyasah Shabazz, illustrated by A.G. Ford (Picture Book Biographies from A to Z - Letter X)

Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X 
by Ilyasah Shabazz
illustrated by A.G. Ford 
2014. Atheneum Books for Young Readers.


Malcolm X (1925-1965) was a human rights activist.


This book, written by his daughter, relate the childhood of Malcolm Little, the boy who grows up to be Malcolm X. There is a ton of information - much of it unnecessarily detailed - crammed into every page. The book ends with Malcolm being elected class president and does not come close to even mentioning what Malcolm X is known for.

About the Illustrations

The pictures have a very contemporary look, and there isn't much in them to suggest history. Many of the images have strange perspectives, where small items like ladybugs look overly large, and they also have an oddly cheery mood that does not really match the serious-sounding text. There are also glaring errors in the pictures, such as "the evergreen tree" mentioned in the text which appears with green leaves inside the book, and with leaves changing color on the front cover. The illustrations really make the book feel hastily put together and poorly produced.

Author's Note

The author's note is a lengthy personal reflection on Malcolm X's life which is as long-winded and overly romanticized as the text proper.

Additional Comments 

This book reads like a school report written by a child in the target age range. The writing is dry and not very accessible, especially if the reader doesn't yet know anything about Malcolm X. Phrases like "person of color" and "African-American" also sound out of place as they would not have been used in the time period during which the book takes place. Because the book focuses only on Malcolm's childhood, it also doesn't really teach anything significant. Only someone who is already knowledgeable about Malcolm X and interested in knowing more would be truly interested in reading this - and that's not most elementary students.


  1. Too bad it came out so poorly when he was such an influential man. Sounds like it needed a ghost writer and/or a very good editor.

  2. Your summary has to be just as "dry" as the book you proclaim it to be. I haven't read this book yet but I highly doubt it is as horrible as you make it out to be since it was published. Reading this review makes me want to read it. Thanks

    1. Not every book that is published is worthy of praise, unfortunately. I'm not sure why the quality of my summary has any bearing on my critical opinion of the book's flaws, but the fact that my review encouraged you to read, comment, and seek out the book seems like a check mark in the success column for me. I hope you enjoy the book more than I did - and that you find a truly scintillating way to summarize it. Thanks for the comment!


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