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

“But the crowd didn’t always roar for Joe Louis,” writes Matt de la Peña in his new picture book depicting racism in America and the mood of the country when Joe Louis fought Max Schmeling prior to WWII.

You know Kadir Nelson’s work, so the illustrations, painted with oils on wood, are stunning. My favorite is young Joe wearing a newsboy hat and the one a few pages later, the large boxing gloves at the end of two muscular arms.

De la Peña’s use of alliteration gives the prose a poetic feel. It would be interesting to read this picture book alongside Maya Angelou’s account in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings or some other author’s perspective.