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Common core

The Berlin Boxing Club

By Robert Sharenow

Sydney Taylor Award-winning novel Berlin Boxing Club is loosely inspired by the true story of boxer Max Schmeling's experiences following Kristallnacht. Publishers Weekly called it "a masterful historical novel" in a starred review.

Karl Stern has never thought of himself as a Jew; after all, he's never even been in a synagogue. But the bullies at his school in Nazi-era Berlin don't care that Karl's family doesn't practice religion. Demoralized by their attacks against a heritage he doesn't accept as his own, Karl longs to prove his worth.

Then Max Schmeling, champion boxer and German hero, makes a deal with Karl's father to give Karl boxing lessons. A skilled cartoonist, Karl has never had an interest in boxing, but now it seems like the perfect chance to reinvent himself.

But when Nazi violence against Jews escalates, Karl must take on a new role: family protector. And as Max's fame forces him to associate with Nazi elites, Karl begins to wonder where his hero's sympathies truly lie. Can Karl balance his boxing dreams with his obligation to keep his family out of harm's way?

Includes an author's note and sources page detailing the factual inspirations behind the novel.

  • Grade level: 9
  • Interest Level: 8-12
  • Guided Reading Level: Z+
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • Imprint: Balzer + Bray
  • Format: Paperback
  • On Sale: 11/30/-0001
  • ISBN: 9780061579707
  • ISBN 10: 006157970X
  • ISBN 13: 9780061579707
  • Pages: 432
  • Trim Size: 5.31 x 8.00 in
  • Subcategory:

Publishers Weekly (starred review)★ “Sharenow delivers a masterful historical novel.”

School Library Journal (starred review)★ “A story with well-drawn, complex characters, gripping history, and intense emotion.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)★ “A fine one-two punch with the author’s previous powerful work, My Mother the Cheerleader.”

ALA Booklist“Readers will be drawn [in] by the sports detail and by the close-up narrative of the daily oppression.”

The Horn Book“A meaty, readable account of the perils and pitfalls of daily life in Nazi Germany.”

Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA)“This beautifully written coming-of-age story puts a human face on both the victims and the tormentors during the holocaust while revealing on a national level the political importance and implications of the historic match between black boxer Joe Louis and German hero Max Schmeling.”

Robert Lipsyte, author of THE CONTENDER and CENTER FIELD“I held my breath as Karl Stern, fierce and thoughtful, fought his way through the Nazi Wolf Pack and his own insecurities to save his family and become a boxer and an artist.”

Brightly.com“Set in Berlin just after Kristallnacht, this isn’t just a story about the terrible events in Nazi Germany, it’s also a story about identity, family, and growing up” (in the article “11 Children’s and YA Books to Help Remember the Holocaust’).

Read an excerpt

COMMON CORE STRANDS

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1,2,3,4,5,6,10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2,2a,2b,2c,2d,2e,4,8,9,9a
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1,1a,1b,1c,1d,1d,3,5,6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.3,4,4a,4d,5,5a,5b,6
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