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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by Matt de la Peña, Kadir Nelson
     
 

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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 around the historic fight in which Black and White America were able to

Overview

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 around the historic fight in which Black and White America were able to put aside prejudice and come together to celebrate our nation's ideals.

Editorial Reviews

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 ‘master race,' " de la Peña (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 6–8. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
Awards for A Nation's Hope:A New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year (2011), A Booklist Top Ten Biographies for Youth 2011, A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year (2011), A Booklist Editors’ Choice Best Book of the Year (2011)

Praise  for A Nation's Hope:
"Spare, evocative verse melds with the eloquent illustrations to create palpable energy around the fight and Louis's struggle to the top."
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Spectacularly illustrated and smoothly cadanced."
—Booklist (starred review)

"Stunning art and dramatic storytelling."
School Library Journal (starred review)

"de la Pena's tersely poetic narration is riveting, and Nelson's oil paintings draw viewers directly into the ring."
BCCB (starred review)

Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
We are back in Yankee Stadium on June 22, 1938, for "the most important match in boxing history" between African American Joe Louis, son of a sharecropper, and Max Schmeling, of Hitler's "master race." Terse sentences build the drama of the event. As a quiet youth, Louis had taken up boxing to become a hero in black neighborhoods. But Schmeling had knocked him out in a previous bout. Louis has vowed to battle back as Nazi power grows. All America sets the color bar aside as it needs a hero, and Louis gives what they require with his triumph. On the cover, a commanding portrait of the boxer spills over the frame. Nelson's realistic double-page oil paintings exploit emotional power. Settings are dramatic, some even melodramatic: close-ups of sweaty boxing gloves and the boxer flat on his back; the square of light surrounded by extended areas of black; an African American family listening intently to a radio. The visuals expand significantly on the emotional content of the brief text. Note the reversal on the jacket and cover. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 3–5—With stunning art and dramatic storytelling, Nelson and de la Peña 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.—Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA
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)

David Margolick
…superbly illustrated…De la Peña's succinct text and Nelson's intensely beautiful paintings don't require much more time than Louis needed for Schmeling. But some 70 years later, the story is no less stirring.
—The New York Times

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780803731677
Publisher:
Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
01/20/2011
Pages:
40
Sales rank:
415,978
Product dimensions:
9.20(w) x 11.50(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
6 - 8 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Awards for A Nation's Hope: A New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year (2011), A Booklist Top Ten Biographies for Youth 2011, A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year (2011), A Booklist Editors’ Choice Best Book of the Year (2011)

Praise  for A Nation's Hope:
"Spare, evocative verse melds with the eloquent illustrations to create palpable energy around the fight and Louis's struggle to the top."
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Spectacularly illustrated and smoothly cadanced."
Booklist (starred review)

"Stunning art and dramatic storytelling."
School Library Journal (starred review)

"de la Pena's tersely poetic narration is riveting, and Nelson's oil paintings draw viewers directly into the ring."
BCCB (starred review)

Meet the Author

Matt de la Pena, an acclaimed novelist, lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Kadir Nelson, New York Times bestselling author and two-time Caldecott Honor winner lives in San Diego, California.

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A Nation's Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Heidi_G More than 1 year ago
De la Pena's story paints a picture in our minds of racism and pride; Nelson's superb illustrations make those images appear on paper.  Readers will learn about (and a few will remember) the hope placed on Louis by so many Americans, a hope that he would be victorious in the ring over the Germam boxer, Max Schmeling.  How was it that this black man did not enjoy the same rights as the white Americans who rooted for him?  Did they worship Joe Louis one day and turn a blind eye to him the next?  These are questions that might be posed in the classroom or discussed parent to child.  This book is a delight to be shared.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I sent this book to my brother-in-law as a birthday gift. He called to say that he really enjoyed the book. He sat and read the whole book as soon as he received it. This turned out to be a wonderful gift idea!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book in school and it was pretty good, but is it really worth 11$?