Monday, March 28, 2011

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

A Nation's Hope: the story of boxing legend Joe Louis by Matt de la Pena, illus by Kadir Nelson

Like everything else in 1930's boxing was segregated.

The world waits for Joe Louis to take the ring,
take center stage
White men wait standing beside Black men, but standing apart
Jim Crow America

In the 1938 rematch against German fighter Max Schmeling, Louis was looked upon as a nation's hope because of the impending war. This is the fight that de la Pena leads readers to, though first we are introduced to a young Joe Louis.

He didn't speak until he was six,
and when he finally spoke he stammered
and was ridiculed
Words spinning just beyond Joe's grasp,
and with black skin he passed through childhood in the shadows
Yet there was something about his hands, so big and powerful
Nights he'd stare down at those hands and dream

Nelson's image of a young Joe Louis to the right of Pena's text is strong, gorgeous and focused. Nelson easily captures the strength of Louis's hands. It's one of my favorite panels in the book. The same goes for Pena. Author and illustrator were very in sync.

Pena's text has a great rhythm to it, very fitting for a biography on a boxer. Nelson's illustrations are lovely as always. I do wish the author would've included some back information. There isn't even a timeline or author's note.

Though A Nation's Hope is a still nice introduction to Joe Louis, the second Black heavyweight champion. After reading this I wanted to learn more about Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling and that lead me to this, was quickly sucked in and watched all nine parts.

I have Pena and Nelson to thank for my desire to want to know more about Louis. I believe readers of all ages will be moved to do the same.


Anonymous said...

Glad you like!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I hate boxing, although I do have a post coming up on Jack Johnson, because of what he went through for taking up with white women. But to me boxing is so awful, because of what it does to the brains of boxers, and well, just because it's hitting! And that "great white hope" stuff just makes me be sick. But I'm glad to hear de la Pena has a good treatment of it. I like the quote you included!

Doret said...

I did Edi, thank you

Jill- I almost said Joe Louis was the first Black Heavyweight champion but then I remebered Jack Johnson

Jeff Barger said...

This book should be a contender for the Caldecott Medal! It's an amazing piece of work.