Karen Ball's Reviews > The Berlin Boxing Club

The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow
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's review
Aug 01, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: 2011-challenge

A lot of people will tell you that the first thing you have to learn is how to take a punch. But I believe the first thing you should know is that you can take one and survive. Conquering your fear is the first step to becoming a powerful fighter.
Karl is a blond, skinny fourteen-year-old in 1930s Berlin, when Hitler is on the rise and with him Nazi-approved racism and prejudice. Though he doesn't look like the Jewish stereotype and has never practiced the faith, the bullies in his school torment Karl for his heritage as well as the government. When his father the art dealer barters a deal with world famous boxer Max Schmeling, he benefits: Max gets a painting for giving Karl boxing lessons at the Berlin Boxing Club, where Max trains when he is in Germany. Karl begins as a frightened boy, but quickly takes to the sport, finding comfort and purpose there when everything else is falling apart: his home life with a mother battling depression and a father losing his business more day by day, being expelled from school for being Jewish, and having to hide his new relationship with a beautiful girl. As the situation for Jews in Germany deteriorates, Karl's boxing skills improve as well as his cartooning skills, but it becomes clear that in order to survive, they will need to leave Germany. The only person they know with any power to help would be Max Schmeling... but Max has been socializing with Hitler and his Nazi Party elite, and Germany has become a viper's nest of betrayal and treachery. Karl has no idea how far he can trust him, and lives depend upon that decision. Excellent historical fiction: lots of sports details from the 1936 Olympics held in Berlin and from Max Schmeling's many famous fights, and a gripping tale of what life was like for German Jews in Berlin. Told from Karl's point of view, with all of his mistakes, missteps and misgivings, this is a great guy read. 8th grade and up - awesome addition to Holocaust-era fiction.

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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Riv (new) - rated it 3 stars

Riv Great review. Question: You mentioned a girl. Is there a lot of focus on their relationship? I may read this book for a Holocaust class in my school, but I doubt I'll be allowed to read it if there's much of a focus on relationships like that.

Karen Ball The relationship is more of a side issue -- the real focus is on the Nazis slowly squeezing out the Jewish population and becoming more and more abusive as they do it. Sharenow brings that focus squarely down on Karl, his family, and their community, making the Nazi process very personal. Hope that helps!

message 3: by Riv (new) - rated it 3 stars

Riv Excellent, thanks! I just wanted to make sure it was a small thing. I've been meaning to read this book anyway, but I have a Holocaust assignment, so kill two birds with one stone, right?
Thanks again!

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