Jimmy the Greatest! illus

by Rafael Yockteng. 52p. Groundwood. 2012. Tr $18.95. ISBN 978-1-55498-178-6; ebook $18.95. ISBN 978-1-55498-206-6.
RedReviewStarGr 1–3—Jimmy lives in a small village near the sea where the only activity seems to happen at a tiny gym. There, Don Apolinar notices the child, introduces him to books and newspaper clippings about Muhammad Ali, and encourages him to read and box. As Jimmy learns about Ali and becomes stronger through his boxing exercises, he imagines he and his hero are alike, "Handsome and smart..." and his self-esteem begins to grow. The title, in fact, refers to Ali's oft-uttered, "I am the greatest!" When Don Apolinar leaves for the big city, Jimmy realizes that he is satisfied with what he has for now and commits to maintaining the gym and starting a library. Buitrago's spare text is well served by Yockteng's digitally created, stylized cartoons. The muted palette emphasizes the sand and sea, while the carefully composed pictures draw readers' eyes to the important elements of the story and capitalize on its subtle good humor. This gentle tale of self-fulfillment and acceptance will be a winning addition to collections. The Spanish edition, published in 2010, has been nominated for Best Books of the Year by Venezuela's Banco del Libro.—Sharon Grover, Hedberg Public Library, Janesville, WI
Understated poetic language permeates this story about Jimmy, who, inspired by a collection of clippings and books about Muhammad Ali, becomes a boxer. His small town could be anywhere in the tropics, but the (Colombian) author and illustrator do not identify it, giving the book more universal appeal. The illustrations' background blues and beiges highlight the stylized brown-skinned villagers.
What happens when a boy from a nondescript small town grows up to be a talented boxer? Most would dream of bigger and better places, but not young Jimmy. When gym owner Don Apolinar encourages him to start running (despite his missing shoes), Jimmy decides he will become a boxer, inspired by a box of clippings and books about Muhammad Ali. When his trainer leaves to make his fortune, Jimmy makes a poignant and surprising decision to stay and support his little town with a library and a fixed-up boxing gym. This town could be anywhere in the tropics, but the (Colombian) author and illustrator do not identify it, giving the book more universal appeal. The background colors of the illustrations -- the brilliant blues of the sea and the tempered beige of the sand -- highlight the stylized brown villagers, including lanky Jim and bearded Apolinar. Understated poetic language permeates the whole story, but the last page soars. "There are no elegant houses / or fancy things. / But we're really great. / We dance and we box / and we don't / sit around waiting / to go someplace else." In a world where so many must leave their homes to find work, it's inspiring to see Jimmy able to do a truly great thing, right where he wants to be. robin l. smith

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing