War in the Ring: Joe Louis, Max Schmeling, and the Fight between America and Hitler

FLORIO, John & . 208p. bibliog. index. notes. photos. Roaring Brook. Jun. 2019. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781250155740.
Gr 4–6—The two heavyweight championship fights between Joe Louis, representing the United States, and Max Schmeling, representing Germany, serve as a metaphor for the lead-up to World War II and the fight against fascism. Each man carried the weight of national pride on his shoulders, but Louis also carried the burden of being a black man in Jim Crow America. Louis lost the first match badly but redeemed himself in the second bout by knocking Schmeling out in just two minutes and four seconds. America, especially the Black community, regarded Louis's win as a symbol of perseverance and hope, but Schmeling was ostracized in Germany. Florio and Shapiro follow each man on his path to the matches, placing their respective journeys within the historical context of Hitler's rise and fall. The story manages to illuminate beyond what is told in history books, and what people were feeling in those years of war. Even for readers not well-versed in boxing lore, the story is fascinating and reads as smoothly as a novel. In addition to photographs and an index, the book also contains extensive chapter notes and an impressive bibliography of varied sources.
VERDICT For a slightly different take on the time period, this volume captures a microcosm with a personal perspective. Recommended for all public and school libraries.

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