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

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

Matt de la Peña, illus. by Kadir Nelson, Dial, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8037-3167-7

Nelson's (Mama Miti) photographically realistic, luminescent oil paintings bring to life this lyrical tribute to boxing legend Joe Louis. Focusing on Louis's 1938 rematch against German Max Schmeling, "Son of a black sharecropper/ against Hitler's ‘master race,' " de la Peña (We Were Here), in his first picture book, shows how the event unified a racially divided country for one evening, "white men hugging black men/ and black men hugging back." The story of the fight bookends a biography of Louis. Spare, evocative verse melds with the eloquent illustrations to create palpable energy around the fight and Louis's struggle to the top. "Black neighborhoods,/ longing for a hero to call their own, found Joe,/ and danced his every triumph in the streets." The accompanying spread shows fans cheering from rooftops and windows as Joe and his wife walk down a Harlem sidewalk. Another stunning scene features a closeup of two pairs of entangled red boxing gloves, with Louis's copper muscles bulging as he helps a white opponent to his feet. A dramatic introduction to a pugilist who symbolized many things for an entire country. Ages 6–8. (Jan.)