A Fist for Joe Louis and Me

2020-2021 Keystone to Reading Elementary Book Award List

Against the backdrop of the 1938 Fight of the Century, a young boy learns what it means to make a stand for a friend

Gordy and his family live in Detroit, Michigan, the heart of the United States automobile industry. Every night after coming home from work at one of the plants, Gordy’s father teaches him how to box. Their hero is the famous American boxer Joe Louis, who grew up in Detroit.

But the Great Depression has come down hard on the economy. Detroit’s auto industry is affected and thousands of people lose their jobs, including Gordy’s father. When his mother takes on work with a Jewish tailor, Gordy becomes friends with Ira, the tailor’s son, bonding over their shared interest in boxing and Joe Louis. As the boys’ friendship grows, Gordy feels protective of Ira, wanting to help the new boy fit in.

At the same time, America is gearing up for the rematch between Joe Louis and the German boxer, Max Schmeling. For many Americans this fight is about good versus evil (US against Nazi Germany), and for Gordy and Ira, it is a moment in history that will be with them for the rest of their lives.

Format List Price Your Price Qty
$17.99 $17.99
$29.99 $29.99
Interest Level Grade 1 - Grade 4
Reading Level Grade 2
Dewey E
Lexile 610L
ATOS Reading Level
Guided Reading Level P
Language English
Publisher Sleeping Bear Press
Available Formats Hardcover (9781534110168), PDF (9781534146174), Hosted ebook (9781534146518)
Copyright 2019
Number of Pages 40
Dimensions 9 x 11
Graphics Full-color illustrations
  • Keystone to Reading Elementary Book Award List, Short-listed, 2020

Booklist - A Fist for Joe Louis and Me

The 1938 boxing match between American Joe Louis and German Max Schmeling was known as the Fight of the Century, and Noble filters this historic event through the eyes of Gordy, a boxing-loving African American kid in Detroit. When his mother begins working for a Jewish tailor, Gordy bonds with the tailor’s son, Ira, over boxing, and the boys take turns pretending to be Louis in fake backyard matches, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the big night. At times the symbolic nature of the fight is doled out with too heavy a hand, but the friendship between the boys rings true. Tadgell’s watercolor illustrations turn Depression-era Detroit into a thing of beauty, with crepuscular purples, blues, and gold washing over skyline scenes, fan-filled boxing arenas, marching soldiers, and, of course, the boys at play. One especially memorable illustration shows the boys facing off, their shadows spilling forth their boxing names, Gordy Steel and Iron Ira. An author’s note provides extra context for this entry in the Tales of Young America series.

Author: Trinka Hakes Noble

Trinka Hakes Noble is the award-winning author of numerous picture books including The Orange Shoes (2007 National Parenting Publications Awards Honors Winner), The Scarlet Stockings Spy (2005 IRA Teachers' Choice), The Last Brother, and The Legend of the Cape May Diamond. Ms. Noble also wrote the ever-popular Jimmy's Boa series and Meanwhile Back at the Ranch, both featured on PBS's Reading Rainbow. Her many awards include ALA Notable Children's Book, Booklist Children's Editors' Choice, IRA-CBC Children's Choice, Learning: The Year's Ten Best, and several Junior Literary Guild Selections. Ms. Noble has studied children's book writing and illustrating in New York City at Parsons School of Design, the New School University, Caldecott medalist Uri Shulevitz's Greenwich Village Workshop, and at New York University. A member of the Rutgers University Council on Children's Literature, she was awarded Outstanding Woman 2002 in Arts and Letters in the state of New Jersey for her lifetime work in children's books. Ms. Noble currently lives in the historic Jockey Hollow area of Bernardsville, New Jersey.

Illustrator: Nicole Tadgell

Nicole Tadgell was born in Detroit, Michigan (Highland Park). A shy child whose family moved frequently, art was a fun escape for her. While studying studio art at Wheaton College, Nicole discovered children’s book illustration and knew it would be her path. Today she is the illustrator of over 30 books, many of them honored with awards. When she’s not drawing, Nicole visits schools and conducts lectures and workshops. She also practices tai chi and watches Doctor Who. Nicole lives in central Massachusetts. Visit her online at www.nicoletadgellillustration.com.

  • Beginning of text
  • Author's note
Author/Illustrator biography
Full-color illustrations