From Goodreads: In a small upstate New York town during the Great Depression, three children—Hibernia, Willie, and Otis—are about to meet. Hibernia dreams of becoming a famous singer and performing at Harlem’s swanky Savoy Ballroom. Willie is recovering from a tragedy that prevents him from becoming a junior boxing champ. Otis spends every night glued to the radio, listening to the voices that remind him of Daddy and Ma.
Each of them is looking for hope, and they all find it in the thrilling boxing matches of young Joe Louis. They know Joe has a good chance of becoming the country’s next heavyweight champion. What they don’t know is that during this unforgettable year, the three of them will become friends.
Award-winning and bestselling author Andrea Davis Pinkney masterfully tells a story of friendship and determination, set against the backdrop of America’s golden age of radio.
My Take: This book is geared for ages 9-12 and provides a toe-hold for not only the importance of Joe Louis to the African American population but also an understanding of the historical setting. Joe Louis was the underdog in all kinds of ways. He was black, he was poor, and he was just trying to fight himself up to the top.
The latter part of the 1930's finds the nation in the depths of the Great Depression. World War II had not yet begun and the economy was in the pooper. Everybody related to the underdog. Everybody was the underdog. Now imagine being black, a child, and an orphan. Told in 3 distinct voices of 12 year old children, the reader understand the relevance of Joe Louis and overcoming his obstacles.
Hibernia is the daughter of the Reverend. She wants to si-i-i-i-i-ng! Her mother left their home years ago to chase her dreams as a singer. No one has heard a word since. Her only chance to sing is in the staid church choir. She still finds her moments to shine and the choir and Hibernia find themselves in the company of the orphans. Hibernia also finds her father to be her best ally and support.
Willie is not an orphan. He has two parents who are suffering from the Depression. There is no food and his father, Sampson, is an angry and violent drunk. He used to be a boxer, or so he says. Nowadays, his boxing consists of what damage he can do to Willie. After maiming him, Sampson stumbles off and his mother sends him away to the orphanage where he can be safe and fed.
Otis had a good childhood. His parents loved him and their Philco (radio). Work was scarce and his daddy was gone a lot seeking a living but when he'd come home, there were happy times. Until the car accident. Only Otis and the Philco survive.
The story personalizes the plight of the underdog during the Great Depression and the hope one man gives by never, ever giving up.