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

by Matt de la Peña and Kadir Nelson

Joe Louis’s second encounter with German boxer Max Schmeling frames this account... read more

Joe Louis’s second encounter with German boxer Max Schmeling frames this account of Louis’s life and rise to boxing fame. As a child, Joe had a stammer and was ridiculed. He found refuge in the ring, where defeat made him work even harder. A hero to African Americans, who “danced his every triumph in the streets,” Joe’s loss in his first fight with Schmeling left “Harlem streets struck silent.” Before the second meeting between Louis and Schmeling, “Word leaked that the Nazis / were filling concentration camps in Europe ... It was now more than just blacks who needed a hero / it was all of America, and color was set aside.” Matt de la Peña’s narrative dances with the grace of a boxer in a ring as it builds to Louis’s victory over Schmeling. Kadir Nelson’s beautifully composed oil on wood paintings make a dramatic, sometimes haunting accompaniment to the words, reflecting the power and dignity of Louis as an athlete and a human being. (Ages 8–12)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2012

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