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The Chief

The Chief

4.5 8
by Robert Lipsyte

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A fight for his people.

Sonny Bear, the Tomahawk Kid, has a championship left hook. But his boxing career's going nowhere, and he's ready to hang it up.

Then his manager, tough ex-cop Alfred Brooks, and his "writer," college boy Martin Malcolm Witherspoon, scheme Sonny into a glitzy Las Vegas match. Suddenly he's everybody's darling and


A fight for his people.

Sonny Bear, the Tomahawk Kid, has a championship left hook. But his boxing career's going nowhere, and he's ready to hang it up.

Then his manager, tough ex-cop Alfred Brooks, and his "writer," college boy Martin Malcolm Witherspoon, scheme Sonny into a glitzy Las Vegas match. Suddenly he's everybody's darling and headed for Hollywood stardom.

But fame isn't all it's cracked up to be, and Sonny needs to make the fight of his life to decide where he really belongs.

Editorial Reviews

ALA Booklist
“Engrossing and involving, the story has action, character development, humor, and a strong, satisfying finish.”
Children's Literature - Gisela Jernigan
Sonny Bear learns to control his anger which leads to success in the boxing ring. It's an exciting story and a convincing milieu, but the part about the Running Braves does not appear to be authentic. Native Americans don't usually like the term "braves," it has a Hollywood tone. 1995 (orig.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Harper Trophy Books Series
Product dimensions:
4.17(w) x 6.97(h) x 0.54(d)
720L (what's this?)
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Sonny is wired. All the way to the fight, he's jamming his headset on and yanking it off, drumming the dashboard with his bad hand, grunting at trees. When I tell him to get some sleep, he glares.

"Just drive."

It's usually a good sign, Sonny on edge. Means his reflexes are hair-trigger; he's ready to rock. But this feels different. He's cranky, off his rhythm. After two years with a boxer you can read his moods like a weather map. He's got a lot shaking around inside his head. His mom is on his teeth is a wet brown shred. He's in pain. That's the only reason he let me drive his van. Long trips are tough on what's left of his spine.

"They're out to rattle you, Sonny," says Jake. "They're afraid of you."'

"This is futile," says Sonny.

"Fu-tile,"mocks Alfred. "Martin teach you a new word?"

I don't mind being the butt, if it gets us over, "Words are like punches, a new"

"Shut up," says Alfred. "Scared, Sonny?"

"That don't work no more," says Sonny. "Wake up. Elston Hubbard's fighting in Vegas for a title shot and I'm here in Woptown."

"Portuguese Americans," says Jake, "and that kind of talk. . ."

going nowhere." don't get us anywhere," says Jake.

"Got to keep pushing," says Alfred.

"Why?" asks Sonny.

"Cause you got the goods to be champ."

"Of this?" Sonny jerks a thumb out at the arena, a gray cinder-block box that looks ready to crumble into the pitted black tarmac of the parking lot. Old fishing boats, paint peeling, masts cracked, bob in the harbor. We're in some coast town I've never heard of I make a mental note to get the correct spelling of the town's name. Formy book. Especially if this is where it all ends. What a pissant place to close down the story. But fitting. Ironical. And then I feel ashamed -- I'm thinking about my book. This is Sonny's life.

After a while, Alfred asks, What else you gonna do?"

"You mean what else you gonna do," snaps Sonny.

"I got my pension," says Alfred. "I can watch you play Indian for the tourists, sell your momma's made-in-China tomahawks."

In the rearview, I see Jake's wrinkled old face twist into a scowl. Sonny's mom is his niece, but he hates what she's doing more than anyone.

"Can't be worse than this," says Sonny. "Time to hang it up. It's never gonna get any better."

"Warriors welcome their fears', "says Jake. "The Creator gives them fear to make their senses sharp."

"Not about being afraid," says Sonny. "About wasting time. For nothing."

"Let the Hawk find the way," says Jake.

"Later on the redskin crap," says Sonny.

"Let's just get on with it, " says Alfred, "and then we'll all sit down and figure out what's next. Promoter booked us into a nice motel with free movies. Let's win the fight, relax, and tomorrow we'll have a big breakfast and make some plans."

"You been saying that for two years," says Sonny.

Alfred opens the window and spits out the brown shreds. "What do you say, Martin?"

"Nobody's been punching at me," I say. I keep my eyes on the road, but I can imagine Sonny's sidelong glance. I know how to get his attention. "I'm not going to tell Sonny what to do."

It's sly but it works. You can't order Sonny around, even if you're right, but if you are, he'll come around. You just have to cut him slack.

"Don't count on me making any more plans after tonight," grumbles Sonny.

Back in the rearview, Alfred and Jake roll their eyes in relief. I let the air out slowly, through my nose.

We have to lift Alfred's wheelchair up the front steps of the arena. It's hard on someone who used to be a tough cop to be dependent, but for once Alfred says nothing. One wrong word and Sonny blows. Never seen this weirdness before.

The arena is cold and shabby, wooden planks over the hockey ice and a crummy old ring. The ancient canvas is stained with dinosaur blood. .The ropes are frayed, sagging. The ring is surrounded by folding chairs, another bad sign. Crowd doesn't like a decision, those chairs fly.

The promoter is waiting for us in his office. Typical small-town boxing sleazebag, cheap toupee and gold chains. "Tickets just ain't moving. Times are bad. The new TV shows. You know how they hate Indians around here. I didn't want to cut your percentage, so I moved you to a cheaper motel."

I think, No movies, but I say, "What about the marquee? Sonny's name was supposed to be first, and in bigger letters."

"Hadda do it for TV. They're shooting a documentary on Iron Pete."

"Why him?" growls Alfred.

"Who knows? Something about ethnic box


"What do you think Sonny is?"I say. "Native

Americans are the original ethnics." You talk to them, kid. I got my own problems

The dressing room is chilly, damp. Rusted hooks in crumbly concrete. No hangers, no lockers. The toilets haven't been flushed in weeks. No hot water. All the other fighters except Iron Pete, the local hero, dress in the same room with us. They're mostly white guys with dumb tattoos', eagles and skulls, skinny kids who washed out of the Marines or fat truck drivers who don't have good-cnough personalities to be bouncers. They're getting their hands taped by their older cousins, fatter truck drivers with cigarettes dripping ash. Everybody gawks at us, two black guys, one in a wheelchair, an old Indian and a mixedblood fighter.

"Someday, Sonny," says Alfred, packing extra gauze over the bad knuckle,

The Chief. Copyright © by Robert Lipsyte. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Robert Lipsyte was an award-winning sportswriter for the New York Times and the Emmy-winning host of the nightly public affairs show The Eleventh Hour. He is the author of twelve acclaimed novels for young adults and is the recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award honoring his lifetime contribution in that genre. He lives in Manhattan and on Shelter Island, New York, with his wife, Lois, and his dog, Milo.

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The Chief 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
The Chief The Chief is a book about a boxer named sonny bear known as the tomahawk kid. Sonny has all the stuff of becoming the new champ except exposure. When sonny was through with his last fight a reporter came up to him and told him that he should go to Las Vegas and fight the champ. Sonny was going to give it one more shot before he called it quits. People made fun of him because nobody thought that he would ever make it as far as he did. Near the middle of the story sonny is being interviewed by a reporter after a horrible fight he just came out of and. Sonny said that winning the title would be easy now. Now I¿m not going to tell you the end of this book but I highly recommend that you read this book wants you start you will never want to put it down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Chief by Robert Lipsyte is a very good book about a kid name Sonny Bear or the Tomahawk Kid who has a championship left hook, but the heavyweight trail is too full of small fights in small towns. Sonny is about ready to hang up boxing until he gets an idea from a reporter to go to Las Vegas and try to fight the champ. As the story continues Sonny deals with the emotions of being famous and staying true to his Indian background. Sonny's friends, Alfred Brooks and Martin Witherspoon and his auncle Jake help him through this story and are very important roles in this book. The Chief is very action packed but also is a drama and I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys boxing or sports, so thats why I give this book four stars because its fun and easy to read and will leave you at the end of your seat.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Chief is about a young boy named Sonny Bear or the Tomahawk kid who is a boxer who is half white, half Indian. Sonny is at the point in his career where he can become a big time boxer but he can't get any good fights and is cheated when he does fight.This all changes when he meets a reporter who gives him an idea to go to Las Vegas and try to fight the best. During this story Sonny struggles to find who he really is and where he comes from and who are really his friends. Sonny has his ups and downs in this non stop action packed drama that will leave wondering what happens next.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great book for the young adults class. Alot of action. A great book for 7th graders and up. A great sequal.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Chief This book is one of the best stories I¿ve ever read. It¿s about a young American Indian Boy named Sonny who lives on a reservation in Phoenix, Arizona. He has a dream of becoming the winner of the heavyweight title. Along the path to his dream he is put down, made fun of, and yelled at meanly by other people. Basically, he was discriminated horribly. But he just keeps on going and ignores all that, but occasionally slipping up. Anyway, in the beginning he is on his way to his first match. On the banner it had the opponent¿s name larger than Sonny¿s name and much brighter as well. This fight also determines whether he is in or out of the big fighting circle. But in the middle of the story he after a horridly tough fight, Sonny brags to a near by reporter about how easy it will be to win the title. Sorry, I won¿t be able to tell you the end though, but I would like to. This book is epic. It shows a struggle but the person overcomes it. I suggest it for readers who understand discrimination, who love to read, and people who like to read multi cultural books. On a scale of one to ten, this book gets a ten!