Reviews for Berlin Boxing Club

Booklist Reviews 2011 April #2
Berlin in the 1930s, during the rise of Nazism, is the dramatic setting for this novel told through the immediate first-person narrative of teenage Karl. Growing up in a secular middle-class home, he has always ignored his Jewish identity until he is expelled from school, the Hitler Youth harass him, and his father arranges for Karl to have lessons with the famous boxer Max Schmeling. After Max defeats Joe Louis, the Nazis trumpet his victory as Aryan superiority, but then Joe Louis wins the following match. At home, the situation becomes more desperate: Karl's little sister is beaten by Hitler Youth, his mother sinks into depression, and his uncle dies in Dachau. Karl is also a cartoonist, and his occasional sketches express the racist idiocy and the anguish he experiences. Eventually, Karl and his sister escape to America, but their parents do not. A final note fills in the story's factual history, including the boxing matches and the horror of the Nuremberg Laws. Readers will be drawn by the sports detail and by the close-up narrative of the daily oppression. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2011 Fall
Karl Stern, a blond and fair-skinned Jew, meets Max Schmeling, who offers him boxing lessons. Germany is transforming under Hitler's regime, and the changes affect every aspect of Karl's life. The story reaches its climax on Kristallnacht. With its sports component and direct narrative style, this is a meaty, readable account of the perils of life in Nazi Germany. Copyright 2011 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2011 #3
Karl Stern is blond and fair-skinned and is not an observant Jew, so he is surprised when a gang of Nazi bullies in his Berlin school discover his secret and beat him up. Later that night at his father's art gallery, he meets the German boxing champion Max Schmeling, who offers him boxing lessons in exchange for a painting. Over the next four years, Karl trains hard in the sport, transforming his lanky build into a muscled physique, and follows the sport with a growing passion, most especially Max's fight and rematch with Joe Louis. But Germany, too, is changing under Hitler's regime, and the changes affect every aspect of Karl's life: love, friendship, family, education, and housing. The story reaches its climax on Kristallnacht: Karl's father is seriously wounded, and Karl must seek help, first from a cross-dressing homosexual with a strong allegiance to his father and then from Max, who prepares the way for him and his younger sister to escape to America. The novel ends without the family reunited, but Karl is left ruminating about what it means to be a man. With its sports component and direct narrative style recommending the book for boy readers, this is a meaty, readable account of the perils and pitfalls of daily life in Nazi Germany. jonathan hunt Copyright 2011 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 April #1
The historically freighted match between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling forms the backdrop for this compelling coming-of-age novel. Fourteen-year-old Karl Stern has never considered himself Jewish. His father is an atheist, his mother an agnostic. He grew up in a secular household, has no religious background and even has a religiously neutral name. But in 1934 Berlin, with the rise of the Nazis and the newly entitled bullies at school, Karl is Jewish. He gets beaten up and, eventually, expelled from school. Enter Max Schmeling, heavyweight champion of the world, who offers Karl boxing lessons in exchange for a portrait from Mr. Stern's art gallery. Karl's journey to manhood, from 1934 to 1938, is a rough one for a Jewish boy in Nazi Germany, but Sharenow weaves a colorful tale from the cultural context of the mid-1930s: the Holocaust, Kristallnacht, degenerate art, Joe Louis, Jesse Owens, Picasso and Matisse. Besides being an up-and-coming boxer, Karl is a cartoonist, and his cartoons and drawings add visual depth to the novel, effectively delineating Karl's growing sense of himself and his purpose, inspired by his beloved Action Comics hero, Superman. A brief author's note continues the story beyond 1938, relating the postwar friendship between Schmeling and Joe Louis. A fine one-two punch with the author's previous powerful work, My Mother the Cheerleader (2007). (sources) (Historical fiction. 12 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 April #4

As he did in My Mother the Cheerleader (2007), Sharenow delivers a masterful historical novel that examines racism through the eyes of both children and real historical figures. This story follows aspiring cartoonist Karl, a 14-year-old Jewish boy in 1930s Berlin who is on the receiving end of beatings from his Aryan classmates (Karl's cartoons and comics appear throughout). His father's friend, boxing champion Max Schmeling, agrees to train Karl as a boxer so that he can defend himself and his younger sister, Hildy. As the Nazi regime gains power and influence, it becomes clear that Germany will eventually not be safe for Karl and his family. Over the course of a few years, Karl craves the freedom of moving to America, falls in love with his Catholic neighbor, Greta, and meets a cross-dressing homosexual called the Countess, forcing Karl to confront his own prejudices. The assorted plot threads and immersion in the worlds of art and boxing make the novel a bit crowded, but Sharenow's deft touch with his characters and his portrayal of turbulent prewar Berlin more than compensate. Ages 12-up. (May)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2011 June

Gr 7 Up--This powerful and thought-provoking novel set in Berlin from 1934 to 1938 dramatically chronicles the impact of Hitler's rise to power through the eyes of Karl Stern. After suffering a humiliating beating by some pro-Nazi bullies, the 13-year-old happily accepts the chance to be coached by Max Schmeling, the champion boxer he meets at a reception in his father's art gallery. Boxing has never been one of Karl's interests, but it becomes his main focus. Prior to his humiliation at school, drawing cartoons was his passion and they are cleverly interspersed in the story. He and his family are nonobservant Jews, and Karl even expresses anti-Semitic attitudes early in the book. But eventually politics and economics begin to overshadow everything in the boy's life. Much of the art at the Stern Gallery has to be sold secretly since the Nazis have banned it as degenerate. Karl's mother has periods of depression. As the entrenchment of Fascism grows, things become even more confusing. Karl admires Schmeling greatly, but becomes disillusioned by the boxer's association with Hitler and high-ranking Nazis. The gallery is destroyed on Kristallnacht when roving bands of Nazis smash windows of businesses owned by Jews. Karl's father is wounded and Karl and his sister run to a customer who risks a great deal to help them. Ultimately it is Schmeling who saves the two young Sterns and pays for their passage to America. This is an unusual story with well-drawn, complex characters, gripping history, and intense emotion.--Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ

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VOYA Reviews 2011 August
In 1934 Berlin, fourteen-year-old comic-book geek and artist Karl Stern, though raised as an agnostic, must face the fact that he is technically Jewish. Ever-increasing harassment at school, his father's art gallery, and home make life difficult for his and other Jewish families. Then Max Schmeling, heavyweight champion of the world, through a deal at his father's gallery, offers Karl boxing lessons. Karl, thin and gangly, embraces the lessons and develops over the next four years into a confident boxer with a perfect record and a budding romance with a German girl. He strives to protect his more ethnic-looking sister from persecution while entertaining her with his cartoon drawings and stories, which are interspersed throughout the novel. The story culminates with some difficult choices and a daring escape from Germany to America The author's previous book, My Mother the Cheerleader (HarperTeen, 2007) also deals with racism in a powerful way. This beautifully written coming-of-age story puts a human face on both the victims and the tormentors during the holocaust while revealing on a national level the political importance and implications of the historic match between black boxer Joe Louis and German hero Max Schmeling. Readers who enjoyed Bryce Courtenay's World War II boxing saga The Power of One (Ballantine, 1990/VOYA December 1989) should also embrace Karl's exciting narrative and hope for a sequel.--Kevin S. Beach 4Q 3P M J S Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.