Compelling history well told.

A historic boxing match becomes a proxy for world politics as legendary African-American boxer Joe Louis takes on his most memorable opponent, German Max Schmeling.

Louis’ parents migrated from Alabama to Detroit, Michigan, in the 1920s hoping for opportunity. Despite his stepfather’s objections, Joe was drawn to the boxing ring, and it wasn’t long before he was a contender. His exploits made him a hero, particularly to the African-American community, but boxing authorities seemed reluctant to see a black champion. Meanwhile, Max Schmeling was moving up the ranks in Europe, eventually coming to the United States and securing the world heavyweight championship—and winning the admiration of Adolf Hitler, whose Nazi Party was rising to power in Germany. The first fight between the black man and the white man ended in defeat for the American, and by the time their rematch occurred in 1938, the “battle [became] much more than a contest between two prizefighters.…Had you asked almost any American, you’d have heard that Joe Louis was taking on the führer himself.” Florio and Shapiro bring considerable skill to their lively telling of this multilayered slice of history. They provide solid context for readers while keeping the focus on the match and its aftermath, giving an honest account of the racism and anti-Semitism intertwined throughout and realistically portraying the complexities of both men. Contemporaneous pictures enhance the narrative.

Compelling history well told. (source notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-15574-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019


From the They Did What? series

A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats.

Why should grown-ups get all the historical, scientific, athletic, cinematic, and artistic glory?

Choosing exemplars from both past and present, Mitchell includes but goes well beyond Alexander the Great, Anne Frank, and like usual suspects to introduce a host of lesser-known luminaries. These include Shapur II, who was formally crowned king of Persia before he was born, Indian dancer/professional architect Sheila Sri Prakash, transgender spokesperson Jazz Jennings, inventor Param Jaggi, and an international host of other teen or preteen activists and prodigies. The individual portraits range from one paragraph to several pages in length, and they are interspersed with group tributes to, for instance, the Nazi-resisting “Swingkinder,” the striking New York City newsboys, and the marchers of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade. Mitchell even offers would-be villains a role model in Elagabalus, “boy emperor of Rome,” though she notes that he, at least, came to an awful end: “Then, then! They dumped his remains in the Tiber River, to be nommed by fish for all eternity.” The entries are arranged in no evident order, and though the backmatter includes multiple booklists, a personality quiz, a glossary, and even a quick Braille primer (with Braille jokes to decode), there is no index. Still, for readers whose fires need lighting, there’s motivational kindling on nearly every page.

A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats. (finished illustrations not seen) (Collective biography. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-14-751813-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Puffin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015


From the Giants of Science series

Hot on the heels of the well-received Leonardo da Vinci (2005) comes another agreeably chatty entry in the Giants of Science series. Here the pioneering physicist is revealed as undeniably brilliant, but also cantankerous, mean-spirited, paranoid and possibly depressive. Newton’s youth and annus mirabilis receive respectful treatment, the solitude enforced by family estrangement and then the plague seen as critical to the development of his thoughtful, methodical approach. His subsequent squabbles with the rest of the scientific community—he refrained from publishing one treatise until his rival was dead—further support the image of Newton as a scientific lone wolf. Krull’s colloquial treatment sketches Newton’s advances in clearly understandable terms without bogging the text down with detailed explanations. A final chapter on “His Impact” places him squarely in the pantheon of great thinkers, arguing that both his insistence on the scientific method and his theories of physics have informed all subsequent scientific thought. A bibliography, web site and index round out the volume; the lack of detail on the use of sources is regrettable in an otherwise solid offering for middle-grade students. (Biography. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-670-05921-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2006

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