Kirkus Reviews QR Code
A NATION'S HOPE by Matt de la Peña


The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis

by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Age Range: 6 - 10

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-8037-3167-7
Publisher: Dial

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)