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Reviewed in the United States on November 23, 2013
De la Pena's story paints a picture in our minds of racism and pride; Nelson's superb illustrations make those images appear on paper. Readers will learn about (and a few will remember) the hope placed on Louis by so many Americans, a hope that he would be victorious in the ring over the Germam boxer, Max Schmeling. How was it that this black man did not enjoy the same rights as the white Americans who rooted for him? Did they worship Joe Louis one day and turn a blind eye to him the next? These are questions that might be posed in the classroom or discussed parent to child. This book is a delight to be shared.
Reviewed in the United States on November 20, 2011
I picked up "A Nation's Hope" after seeing that it was named one of the NY Times Best Children's Illustrated Books of 2011 and am very happy I did as it is an excellent read both for children and adults alike. A great book to read with your children particularly to get their reaction to such an important time in both US and world history. The author Matt De La Pena does a great job explaining to the young reader who Joe Louis was and the importance of his famous fight with Max Schmeling. He underscores that it is not only a boxing match but also something the whole world paid attention to given the ongoing WWII. Finally, the author does a great job alluding to the ongoing racial tensions in America at the time which makes for another good lesson for children. I enjoyed the book very much as did my 12 year old son and the illustrations were phenomenal.
Take a strong writer and pair him up with a phenomenal illustrator and you have a winner of a book. I have lots of respect and admiration for the artwork of Kadir Nelson. In Joe Louis, Nelson does not disappoint fans of of his work in books such as We Are The Ship or Coretta Scott. De La Pena provides the reader with some information about Louis' early life but the significant focus for this story is on the Joe Louis/Max Schlmeling fight at Yankee Stadium. A fight that was much greater than the two individuals in the ring but something that represented so much more to the Americans in the Stadium or at home listening on the radio.
Wow. Kadir Nelson NEVER disappoints. These illustrations are masterful -- especially the chiaroscuro pages in the ring. (I finally got to use chiaroscuro -- I've been waiting all week.)
The eruption of joy at the victory sweeps across the two-page spread -- you can almost hear it. You can certainly see it -- in the shapes of the smiles and the angles of the heads.
The free verse text... we really have had enough free verse books at this point. In this case, the free verse works with the story so it almost seems like a voice coming over a radio, people gathered around, listening, static crackling over a word or two. That works for this particular book.
*** Note to authors and publishers: We are raising children and we need sentences and paragraphs. Almost all the beautiful books written "for black children" are told in free verse or using non-standard English. It sends a powerful message to children when you read out loud, that this group of children does not need to live up to the same standards as other groups of children. ...That perhaps standard speech is not important to everyone's success. ...That writing sentences and paragraphs are something "other" groups do.
Please, please, please write us some high quality books with PARAGRAPHS.