The Berlin Boxing Club

The Berlin Boxing Club

4.4 21
by Robert Sharenow
     
 

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Sydney Taylor Award-winning novel Berlin Boxing Club is loosely inspired by the true story of boxer Max Schmeling's experiences following Kristallnacht.

Karl Stern has never thought of himself as a Jew. But the bullies at his school in Nazi-era Berlin, don't care that Karl has never been in a synagogue or that his family doesn't practice religion.

Overview

Sydney Taylor Award-winning novel Berlin Boxing Club is loosely inspired by the true story of boxer Max Schmeling's experiences following Kristallnacht.

Karl Stern has never thought of himself as a Jew. But the bullies at his school in Nazi-era Berlin, don't care that Karl has never been in a synagogue or that his family doesn't practice religion. Demoralized by attacks on a heritage he doesn't accept as his own, Karl longs to prove his worth.

So when Max Schmeling, champion boxer and German national hero, makes a deal with Karl's father to give Karl boxing lessons, A skilled cartoonist, Karl has never had an interest in boxing, but now it seems like the perfect chance to reinvent himself.

But when Nazi violence against Jews escalates, Karl must take on a new role: protector of his family. And as Max's fame forces him to associate with Hitler and other Nazi elites, Karl begins to wonder where his hero's sympathies truly lie. Can Karl balance his dream of boxing greatness with his obligation to keep his family out of harm's way?

Includes an author's note and sources page detailing the factual inspirations behind the novel.

Supports the Common Core State Standards.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As he did in My Mother the Cheerleader (2007), Sharenow delivers a masterful historical novel that examines racism through the eyes of both children and real historical figures. This story follows aspiring cartoonist Karl, a 14-year-old Jewish boy in 1930s Berlin who is on the receiving end of beatings from his Aryan classmates (Karl's cartoons and comics appear throughout). His father's friend, boxing champion Max Schmeling, agrees to train Karl as a boxer so that he can defend himself and his younger sister, Hildy. As the Nazi regime gains power and influence, it becomes clear that Germany will eventually not be safe for Karl and his family. Over the course of a few years, Karl craves the freedom of moving to America, falls in love with his Catholic neighbor, Greta, and meets a cross-dressing homosexual called the Countess, forcing Karl to confront his own prejudices. The assorted plot threads and immersion in the worlds of art and boxing make the novel a bit crowded, but Sharenow's deft touch with his characters and his portrayal of turbulent prewar Berlin more than compensate. Ages 12–up. (May)
Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA)
“This beautifully written coming-of-age story puts a human face on both the victims and the tormentors during the holocaust while revealing on a national level the political importance and implications of the historic match between black boxer Joe Louis and German hero Max Schmeling.”
ALA Booklist
“Readers will be drawn [in] by the sports detail and by the close-up narrative ofthe daily oppression.”
The Horn Book
“A meaty, readable account of the perils and pitfalls of daily life in Nazi Germany.”
Booklist (starred review)
Praise for MY MOTHER THE CHEERLEADER:“Readers will be held fast by the history told from the inside.”
Robert Lipsyte
“I held my breath as Karl Stern, fierce and thoughtful, fought his way through the Nazi Wolf Pack and his own insecurities to save his family and become a boxer and an artist.”
VOYA - Kevin S. Beach
In 1934 Berlin, fourteen-year-old comic-book geek and artist Karl Stern, though raised as an agnostic, must face the fact that he is technically Jewish. Ever-increasing harassment at school, his father's art gallery, and home make life difficult for his and other Jewish families. Then Max Schmeling, heavyweight champion of the world, through a deal at his father's gallery, offers Karl boxing lessons. Karl, thin and gangly, embraces the lessons and develops over the next four years into a confident boxer with a perfect record and a budding romance with a German girl. He strives to protect his more ethnic-looking sister from persecution while entertaining her with his cartoon drawings and stories, which are interspersed throughout the novel. The story culminates with some difficult choices and a daring escape from Germany to America. The author's previous book, My Mother the Cheerleader (HarperTeen, 2007) also deals with racism in a powerful way. This beautifully written coming-of-age story puts a human face on both the victims and the tormentors during the holocaust while revealing on a national level the political importance and implications of the historic match between black boxer Joe Louis and German hero Max Schmeling. Readers who enjoyed Bryce Courtenay's World War II boxing saga The Power of One (Ballantine, 1990/VOYA December 1989) should also embrace Karl's exciting narrative and hope for a sequel. Reviewer: Kevin S. Beach
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—This powerful and thought-provoking novel set in Berlin from 1934 to 1938 dramatically chronicles the impact of Hitler's rise to power through the eyes of Karl Stern. After suffering a humiliating beating by some pro-Nazi bullies, the 13-year-old happily accepts the chance to be coached by Max Schmeling, the champion boxer he meets at a reception in his father's art gallery. Boxing has never been one of Karl's interests, but it becomes his main focus. Prior to his humiliation at school, drawing cartoons was his passion and they are cleverly interspersed in the story. He and his family are nonobservant Jews, and Karl even expresses anti-Semitic attitudes early in the book. But eventually politics and economics begin to overshadow everything in the boy's life. Much of the art at the Stern Gallery has to be sold secretly since the Nazis have banned it as degenerate. Karl's mother has periods of depression. As the entrenchment of Fascism grows, things become even more confusing. Karl admires Schmeling greatly, but becomes disillusioned by the boxer's association with Hitler and high-ranking Nazis. The gallery is destroyed on Kristallnacht when roving bands of Nazis smash windows of businesses owned by Jews. Karl's father is wounded and Karl and his sister run to a customer who risks a great deal to help them. Ultimately it is Schmeling who saves the two young Sterns and pays for their passage to America. This is an unusual story with well-drawn, complex characters, gripping history, and intense emotion.—Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
The historically freighted match between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling forms the backdrop for this compelling coming-of-age novel. Fourteen-year-old Karl Stern has never considered himself Jewish. His father is an atheist, his mother an agnostic. He grew up in a secular household, has no religious background and even has a religiously neutral name. But in 1934 Berlin, with the rise of the Nazis and the newly entitled bullies at school, Karl is Jewish. He gets beaten up and, eventually, expelled from school. Enter Max Schmeling, heavyweight champion of the world, who offers Karl boxing lessons in exchange for a portrait from Mr. Stern's art gallery. Karl's journey to manhood, from 1934 to 1938, is a rough one for a Jewish boy in Nazi Germany, but Sharenow weaves a colorful tale from the cultural context of the mid-1930s: the Holocaust, Kristallnacht, degenerate art, Joe Louis, Jesse Owens, Picasso and Matisse. Besides being an up-and-coming boxer, Karl is a cartoonist, and his cartoons and drawings add visual depth to the novel, effectively delineating Karl's growing sense of himself and his purpose, inspired by his beloved Action Comics hero, Superman. A brief author's note continues the story beyond 1938, relating the postwar friendship between Schmeling and Joe Louis. A fine one-two punch with the author's previous powerful work, My Mother the Cheerleader (2007). (sources) (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062076922
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
05/17/2011
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
432
Sales rank:
163,217
Lexile:
880L (what's this?)
File size:
8 MB
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

What People are saying about this

Robert Lipsyte
“I held my breath as Karl Stern, fierce and thoughtful, fought his way through the Nazi Wolf Pack and his own insecurities to save his family and become a boxer and an artist.”

Meet the Author

Robert Sharenow is an award-winning writer and television producer. His most recent novel, The Berlin Boxing Club, was awarded the Sydney Taylor Award by the Association of Jewish Libraries and received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and Kirkus Reviews. He also serves as executive vice president and general manager of Lifetime. He lives in New York with his wife, two daughters, and their dog, Lucy.

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Berlin Boxing Club 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
seattlems More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderfully written historical novel set in Germany at the start of WWII. It will appeal to historical fiction readers, boys who are fascinated by boxing and those interested in the oppression of Jews in Germany before WWII. The book is complex, so higher level thinkers and strong capable readers will enjoy the book from start to finish. Reading this book made me go to the internet to research the real boxers who's names I had only heard of in order to understand more of the historical context. I call that a winner for readers and historians.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book in order to get into my next grade level. At first I thought it would be a story from the germans' biased perspective. Even though there is a lot of german propaganda against jews such as Karl Stern, this book shows you Germany from a boy who was related to Jewish citizens, but neve practiced their religion. He also gets abused in very disgusting ways by a group of sadistic germans known as the wolf pack. This is a well written story about overcoming obstacles in life to achieve your goal. (I am sorry if I offended anyone of a Jewish or Germain background for I only wrote what I observed about the germains)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book at random at my library and couldn't put it down after. Highly recommened!
Ladystorm More than 1 year ago
This is a fantastic book based in Nazi era Germany. Karl Stern, is Jewish by birth but not by religion. His family does not practice nor do they have anything to do with being Jewish. Karl has never really had a problem with any kids because he doesn't really have the look of a Jew. He soon finds out that it doesn't matter if you practice the religion, or if you look the part. To those in Nazi Germany, a Jew is a Jew. Karl is cornered by some kids he deems as "The Wolf Pack" and they confront him about being a Jew, this is his first experience with hatred towards Jews and it will only get worse. Karl's father is a art dealer, and a very stubborn and prideful man. Even though most artist are leaving Germany do to Hitler taking away the freedom to express oneself in any form but the way of Nazis, Karl's father still hold to his art gallery. After Karl is beat up, his father makes a deal with Max Schmeling, champion boxer and German national hero. Max wanted a painted that Sig (Karl's father) has so they make a deal that Max will give Karl boxing lesson and Max can have the painting. Karl is thrilled, and soon starts a training regimen that Max gives him. As things start heating up in Germany, Karl soon realizes how bad it really is for the Jewish population. Although his father refuses to see it, it will eventual catch up to Karl and his family. This is a story told through the eyes of a teenager as he sees his world crumbling before him as Hitlers propaganda grows. I can honestly say when I was asked to review this book that I wasn't really sure whether to say yes or no, this is really not my type of book. I am not a big fan of any stories set around WWII, as its not my favorite war. My step-grandfather was part Jew and so I get a little aggravated when reading or watching anything to do with WWII, but this was a very well told story. The author took actual characters and events and then wove a fictitious story around them, and he did it with creative style. Max Schemling was a real German boxer from the Nazi era and I found it very interesting how the author puts him into the story. From the very first page I knew this story was going to upset me as well as entertain me. This is the first time in a long time, that I have read a book that grabbed me from the first page and held my attention to the last page. Karl Stern is a well developed character and you really can feel his conflicting emotions through out the story. I really wanted to punch the punching bag with him when he was frustrated. From the things that happen within his own life (girlfriend, friends, school, boxing), to what was happening with his family as a whole. This story is very fast paced and gripping and I think even if its not your style of book that it is a powerful enough book to get anybodies attention. I would recommend this book to everyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
WHY DID IT HAVE TO END LIKE THAT? What happenes to everyone ..
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Karl's modest upbringing and inspirational background makes him an intriguing character to root for at a time of despair during the perils of the Holocaust. While other novels focus on the tragedies of the horrific event, the Berlin Boxing Club sheds a necessary light on the atempted resistance. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The harsh depiction of Nazi Germany is all too accurate in this compelling and heartwarming story of a boy and his dedication to not only boxing, but his family. Highly recommended for teens as there are some harsh, inappropriate, and plain awkward parts. Overall, a great book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JordanRose More than 1 year ago
I was not expecting to check this book out at the library; I saw it, read the description really quickly, made a split-second decision, and took it. It was just one of those book you check out on a whim and hope it’s give. I was a bit skeptical at first because it didn’t seem to be the type of book that I normally read, but once I started reading it, I couldn’t stop. World War II-era books that are based in Germany can easily become repetitive and dreary, but luckily The Berlin Boxing Club did not fall into this rut. I loved that Sharenow didn’t sugarcoat any of the events; he had many graphic descriptions of the atrocities that occurred to Jews during that time. Because of the emphasis on boxing, I was really able to develop a deeper respect for boxing. Lately I’ve found that I am a small boxing fan; I don’t watch it much or know a lot about it, but I find it much more interesting and entertaining than any other televised sports (i.e. football, basketball, soccer). I really liked that I was able to learn about the basics of boxing alongside Karl. As he learned the different punches and jabs, I learned the different punches and jabs. The character development was a bit confusing to me, however. For instance, Karl was extremely dynamic in many ways, but at the same time there were certain instances where he seemed to hold onto traits that he had in the beginning of the novel. Now, I won’t go into detail because I hate spoilers, but there is one instance at the end of the novel where Karl can either choose to help someone or choose to run away like a coward, and the decision that he ends up making is one that I feel he would have made in the beginning of the book before he changed. I felt the beginning-middle half of the book went at a normal, casual pace that was easy to follow. The last half of the book was just as well-written and easy to follow, but I felt that the pacing was a bit too fast. Too much seemed to happen in too short of an amount of time. It was as if the major events happened in the last one hundred pages of the book. Overall, this is, quite, simply, a really good book. It’s brutal, cruel, and harsh, but that was the reality of Nazi-era Germany.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
when is Sharenow going to write a sequel
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good book to read for teenager or an adult.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book.
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Great book
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i loved this book. Boxing i pretty kool