Fourteen-year-old Karl Stern has never thought of himself as a Jew. But to the bullies at his school in Naziera Berlin, it doesn’t matter that Karl has never set foot in a synagogue or that his family doesn’t practice religion. Demoralized by relentless attacks on a heritage he doesn’t accept as his own, Karl longs to prove his worth to everyone around him.
So when Max Schmeling, champion boxer and German national hero, makes a deal with Karl’s father to give Karl boxing lessons, Karl sees it as the perfect chance to reinvent himself. A skilled cartoonist, Karl has never had an interest in boxing, but as Max becomes the mentor Karl never had, Karl soon finds both his boxing skills and his art flourishing.
But when Nazi violence against Jews escalates, Karl must take on a new role: protector of his family. Karl longs to ask his new mentor for help, but with Max’s fame growing, he is forced to associate with Hitler and other Nazi elites, leaving Karl to wonder where his hero’s sympathies truly lie. Can Karl balance his dream of boxing greatness with his obligation to keep his family out of harm’s way?
When I think of boxing, I think of Hajime no Ippo.
Geez. I spent so much time on that anime…
Besides that though, this book was definitely not what I thought it would be. Karl had a much different voice than I thought he would, but I got used to him quickly. Not to mention the wuss quality. Yeah, I’ve seen it all before. Kenichi and Ippo for the win.
The story, I’ve seen before–but the cultural, historical and war references that shape this book all made this book really interesting as it went on. I do have to admit that it took a while for everything to get set up–but that was okay.
I loved Karl’s process of learning and the way the war shaped him as he protected his family and learned from Max. I think this will be a really great story for teens trying to learn about this time period and what things were like during that time.
I was really satisfied with this book and I hope that the next book I read on this topic, HITLER’S SECRET, will be just as good. 4 stars.
pg count for the hardback: 399
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