Starred Review in Publishers Weekly!
As he did in My Mother the Cheerleader (2007), Sharenow delivers a masterful historical novel that examines racism through the eyes of both children and real historical figures. This story follows aspiring cartoonist Karl, a 14-year-old Jewish boy in 1930s Berlin who is on the receiving end of beatings from his Aryan classmates (Karl’s cartoons and comics appear throughout). His father’s friend, boxing champion Max Schmeling, agrees to train Karl as a boxer so that he can defend himself and his younger sister, Hildy. As the Nazi regime gains power and influence, it becomes clear that Germany will eventually not be safe for Karl and his family. Over the course of a few years, Karl craves the freedom of moving to America, falls in love with his Catholic neighbor, Greta, and meets a cross-dressing homosexual called the Countess, forcing Karl to confront his own prejudices. The assorted plot threads and immersion in the worlds of art and boxing make the novel a bit crowded, but Sharenow’s deft touch with his characters and his portrayal of turbulent prewar Berlin more than compensate. Ages 12–up.