Book Review: Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X by Ilyasah Shabazz

Malcolm Little book cover

Book Review by: Melody Charles

When it comes to the life and legacy of Malcolm X, fiction seem to loom larger than fact. Love him or loathe him, his intentions and accomplishments as an iconic nationalist Muslim leader have become lost in misconceptions and media propaganda, an injustice that his third-born daughter, best-selling author Ilyasah Shabazz, wants to correct with Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X. 

In her first-ever children’s book (illustrated by AG Ford), Ms. Shabazz humbles and humanizes her father: practically every adult knows of his towering presence and forceful and fiery nature as a temple-builder for the Nation of Islam, but few are aware of his childhood that put him on that path. In language that’s as vivid and energetic as the artwork, Ms. Shabazz uses memories from her relatives’ accounts of Malcolm (cousins, aunts, uncles and extended family) to describe the meeting and marriage of her grandparents, the home that her father shared as the 5th of 7 siblings and, eventually, the forces that ripped the family apart.

Malcolm Little is aimed at younger children (ideally 3rd grade reading level and up since the prose may go over the head of younger kids) and breaks down the complexities of the historical figure’s humble beginnings in an affectionate and insightful manner. The negative and polarizing events are chronicled here (the murder of Earl Little, the marginalization of Louise Little that led to the destruction of their home life, etc.), but it’s the positivity and optimism that leaves the greatest impression, the lessons his parents taught him that led to his future greatness: “The Little children were happy, and romped endlessly around the Little home and land in Omaha, Nebraska. Malcolm was the middle child and, well….Malcolm was different. He was full of questions, a natural leader and a fun-loving prankster—-and along with his brothers and sisters, he was always up to something.” 

Whether you already own a copy of the seminal Autobiography of Malcolm X and want it as a continuation of his life story or just want to demystify him for a new generation, Malcolm an essential addition to any home-based or academic library. It demonstrates, with flair and flourish, how important our children are and with care, how great they can eventually become.


Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X

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