Katia Raina

The Magic Mirror

“The Berlin Boxing Club” by Robert Sharenow

I am so ridiculously late with this, but well, here we go… One of my last two historical fiction reviews, after which I will start compiling a new “best of” list, but more about that later…

At this summer’s New Jersey SCBWI conference I was fortunate to meet editor Kristin Daly Rens of Balzer & Bray at Harper Collins, who so very graciously sent me a copy of one of the  imprint’s recently released historical fiction, “The Berlin Boxing Club” by Robert Sharenow.

 In 1936 Berlin, 14-year-old Karl is a Jew by birth, though he didn’t grow up with any kind of religious upbringing. Karl has neither the looks of a Jew, nor any interest in Judaism. His country gives him no choice but to embrace his Jewish identity, however, as Karl is bullied, then forced to the fringes of German society because of Nazi’s burgeoning anti-Semitism. Karl finds an outlet in love and boxing, being trained by one of German’s biggest boxing celebrities, Max Schmeling. The story heart-breaking and fascinating in turn, as the reader follows Karl on his coming-of-age journey, while slowly everything he loves gets taken away from him. I think this unique story is an important one for the world to hear. It raises as many questions as it answers, and forces you to ponder the definition of courage and heroism. The book doesn’t offer any easy choices, and I think it’s great thinking fodder for young readers. I think they’ll love the raw honesty and complexity of this story — not to mention the cool boxing parts!

Have you read it yet? What did you think?


September 12, 2011 - Posted by | Book Impressions | , , , , , ,


  1. I DID read this and I also need to review it. I was so fascinated with the story that I googled Max Schmeling to see if he was real and wow – it was so cool to see how much the book was motivated by his history. I love the stand he takes at the end of the book and also the history between him and Joe Lewis. A very cool piece of history in the midst of horrendous times!

    Thanks so much for this book, Katia!

    Comment by Joyce Moyer Hostetter | September 12, 2011 | Reply

    • And, in regards to Max Schmeling, I love how the book leaves no easy moral answers at the end. So much for kids to think and talk about! I hope the book helped a bit with your own research, Joyce!

      Comment by Katia Raina | September 12, 2011 | Reply

      • It gave me a feel for Berlin in that era. I am sure I’ll reread when I get back to my German story. One small thing I loved is the scene at Schmeling’s hotel – I knew exactly where it was – on Stresemannstraße across from Anhalter Station. I could visualize it because I love that spot even though everything has changed by now. I’ve seen photos online of it back in the day.


        Our hotel was also on Stresemannstraße – although not quite as elaborate!

        Comment by Joyce Moyer Hostetter | September 13, 2011

      • Quite a gorgeous hotel, Joyce! Stay there next time, lol 😉

        Comment by Katia Raina | September 13, 2011

  2. This one sounds interesting, a really different read.

    Comment by Sarah Pearson | September 12, 2011 | Reply

  3. Different — yes. My 12-year-old son is a big reader, but mostly he’s into fantasy lately. Historical fiction has been feeling a bit too much like homework for him. Yet, I thought he might like this book, so I suggested he read it. When he finished, he marched over to me and demanded how he could order a sequel. When I told him I wasn’t sure there was going to be one, he was actually upset! (And my son is pretty even-tempered, compared to others his age) 🙂 Something to think about, Mr. Robert Sharenow, the author, and Ms. Rens, the editor 🙂

    Comment by Katia Raina | September 12, 2011 | Reply

  4. It sounds fascinating and heartbreaking. It’s already on my wish list. This post is nudging me to buy it sooner than later.

    Comment by Medeia Sharif | September 12, 2011 | Reply

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