Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Berlin Boxing Club

Sharenow, Robert. The Berlin Boxing Club.
In 1930s Berlin, skinny teen Karl Stern does not consider himself Jewish. His father, who runs an art gallery, is falling on hard times, and trades a painting of Max Schmeling to the famous boxer in exchange for boxing lessons for Karl. After a lot of work, Karl becomes a decent boxer, but the rest of his world crumbles. His romance with a neighbor girl results in his family's eviction, so they live in the art gallery that is no longer bringing in any money. He is forced to leave school, and when his father is gravely injured and arrested after Kristallnacht, Karl enlists the aid of Schmeling to rescue his family.
Strengths: Like The Man From the Other Side, this is a compelling story of a boy whose religion does not mean much to him until the Nazis come to power. I'm sure there were many, many people who had similar stories. The inclusion of the art and boxing worlds is fascinating. Karl's family is interesting and complex.
Weaknesses: This is a title for older students. The inclusion of Karl's circumcision adds an element of realism to the story that will intrigue boys, and the matter of fact introduction of a character who is homosexual is true to Berlin at the time. There is also, given that this is about boxing and the Nazis, a fair amount of violence. However, all of these elements are well done.

Watchamacallit Reviews liked this very much as well.

Moss, Marissa. The Pharoah's Secret.
Talibah and Adom's father takes them to his native Egypt to do some historical research, and the two discover the story of Hatshepsut, a woman who became pharoah. When they travel to the Valley of the Kings, they deal with supernatural forces and try to ensure that Hatshepsut is not forgotten.

Strengths: We need more books about ancient Egypt.
Weaknesses: Only available in paperback, and it's really hard to sell a story about Hatshepsut, even with a unit on ancient Egypt in the 6th grade. This was a decent enough story, but I could never quite get into it.

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