A Nation's Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis
A Nation's Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis

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Annotation: Tells about Joe Louis, an African American boxer, and his match against German boxer, Max Schmeling, in 1938.
Genre: Biographies
Catalog Number: #76185
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
All Formats: Search
Common Core/STEAM: Common Core Common Core
Publisher: Penguin
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition Date: 2013
Illustrator: Nelson, Kadir,
Pages: 40
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-14-751061-9 Perma-Bound: 0-605-73925-0
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-14-751061-7 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-73925-3
Dewey: 921
LCCN: 2010013477
Dimensions: 30 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* Sometimes a boxing match is just that, a sport played out on the fists and jaws of two determined contenders. But sometimes it is so much more, as in the 1938 bout between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling. This spectacularly illustrated, smoothly cadenced picture book sets up the historic fight on of a black sharecropper / against Hitler's master race' / Black and white Americans / together against the rule of Nazi hate" d then quickly traces Louis' rise from a quiet boy in Jim Crow America to a magnificent fighter and national hero. Nelson, who's incapable of even a mediocre painting, flexes his artistic muscle here, varying his always effective blue-sky-backed, leveled-gaze portraits with dizzying and dramatic angles, both in and out of the ring. The full weight of the fight's import may need some additional historical context for young readers, but the message rings through in any case: that this was a unifying and triumphant moment of national pride, for all Americans, and that sports can capture people's hearts for more reasons than just winning.
Horn Book
On the eve of WWII, Joe Louis squares off against formidable German Max Schmeling, a symbol of the Nazi regime. De la Peqa's free-verse narrative heightens the historic sporting event's suspense. Nelson's oil paintings vividly capture not only the drama of the fight scenes but also the entire nation waiting with bated breath and quickened pulse for the outcome.
Kirkus Reviews
When Joe Louis fought Max Schmeling at Yankee Stadium in 1938, the bout was for more than the heavyweight title; it was the coming together of Black and White America against Nazi oppression. While in reality neither man was comfortable with such a weight of history on his shoulders, and Schmeling was not a member of the Nazi Party, this work portrays history more single-mindedly. Schmeling is simply "Hitler's German" or "the German," a stereotyped Other, while Louis is "a nation's hope," a symbol all of America rallied around. The story is related in poetic lines with quirky punctuation, an occasional clunky line and an overwrought extended metaphor about shadows: "Devastated, he covered his face leaving the ring / Shadows once again falling and the taste of failure ..." The eye-catching volume features Nelson's oils-on-wood paintings, at their best in close-up portraits and panoramic spreads. The brightly lit boxing ring with the shadows of a nighttime Yankee Stadium all around are breathtaking. No backmatter is included to expand upon a story that seems as perfunctory as the one-round match itself. (Picture book/biography. 6-10)
School Library Journal Starred Review
Gr 3&11;5&12; With stunning art and dramatic storytelling, Nelson and de la Pe&1;a recount the story behind the 1938 boxing match between American champ Joe Louis and "Hitler's German," Max Schmeling. As the nation edged closer to war, Joe Louis felt the weight of expectations on his shoulders, along with the aspirations of his race. He had already overcome obstacles: in childhood, he was ridiculed for his stammer: "words spinning just beyond/Joe's grasp." Salvation appeared at the boxing gym, where he worked tirelessly and "grew into his body," especially his oversize, strong hands. "Back then blacks didn't win decisions/Not against whites/Joe had to let his fists be the referees." He accumulated a string of wins and his fame grew, until Schmeling humiliated him in a stunning upset in 1936. Two years later, a rematch was scheduled in front of 70,000 fans at Yankee Stadium, while an even larger radio audience listened intently. Nelson's artful compositions, rendered in oil on wood, heighten the drama. Juxtaposing light and dark, the artist enlarges on the theme of Louis's "shadow boxing" career: from a "childhood in shadows," Joe gradually stepped out of the shadows until his momentous victory banished them. This well-crafted work brings this pivotal period in history to life; pair it with George Sullivan's Knockout: A Photobiography of Boxer Joe Louis (National Geographic, 2008) for the rest of his story, along with context and perspective.&12; Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA
Starred Review for Publishers Weekly
Nelson's (Mama Miti) photographically realistic, luminescent oil paintings bring to life this lyrical tribute to boxing legend Joe Louis. Focusing on Louis's 1938 rematch against German Max Schmeling, ""Son of a black sharecropper/ against Hitler's %E2%80%98master race,' "" de la Pe%C3%B1a (We Were Here), in his first picture book, shows how the event unified a racially divided country for one evening, ""white men hugging black men/ and black men hugging back."" The story of the fight bookends a biography of Louis. Spare, evocative verse melds with the eloquent illustrations to create palpable energy around the fight and Louis's struggle to the top. ""Black neighborhoods,/ longing for a hero to call their own, found Joe,/ and danced his every triumph in the streets."" The accompanying spread shows fans cheering from rooftops and windows as Joe and his wife walk down a Harlem sidewalk. Another stunning scene features a closeup of two pairs of entangled red boxing gloves, with Louis's copper muscles bulging as he helps a white opponent to his feet. A dramatic introduction to a pugilist who symbolized many things for an entire country. Ages 6%E2%80%938. (Jan.)
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* Sometimes a boxing match is just that, a sport played out on the fists and jaws of two determined contenders. But sometimes it is so much more, as in the 1938 bout between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling. This spectacularly illustrated, smoothly cadenced picture book sets up the historic fight on of a black sharecropper / against Hitler's master race' / Black and white Americans / together against the rule of Nazi hate" d then quickly traces Louis' rise from a quiet boy in Jim Crow America to a magnificent fighter and national hero. Nelson, who's incapable of even a mediocre painting, flexes his artistic muscle here, varying his always effective blue-sky-backed, leveled-gaze portraits with dizzying and dramatic angles, both in and out of the ring. The full weight of the fight's import may need some additional historical context for young readers, but the message rings through in any case: that this was a unifying and triumphant moment of national pride, for all Americans, and that sports can capture people's hearts for more reasons than just winning.
Word Count: 776
Reading Level: 4.9
Interest Level: 1-4
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.9 / points: 0.5 / quiz: 142513 / grade: Lower Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:2.6 / points:1.0 / quiz:Q53027
Lexile: NP
Guided Reading Level: S

The magnificent, inspiring story of an
AMERICAN SPORTS HERO, by Newbery Award-winning author Matt de la Pena.


On the eve of World War II, African-American boxer Joe Louis fought German Max Schmeling in a bout that had more at stake than just the world heavyweight title. For much of America, their fight came to represent America’s war with Germany. This elegant and powerful picture book biography centers on this historic fight in which the American people came together to celebrate our nation’s founding ideals. 

New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book Award 
Booklist Editor's Choice Best Books of 2011 
School Library Journal Best Books of 2011


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