Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In the biography Joe Louis: Heavyweight Champion, Robert Jakoubek creates immediate interest in the man who became the United States’ first African-American athlete hero by opening the story with dramatic descriptions of scenes from Madison Square Garden on June 22, 1938. This was the day for the rematch between Louis and Max Schmeling. The twenty-four-year-old Louis had been inexcusably defeated by the German fighter, the pride of Adolf Hitler, two years earlier. Jakoubek describes in vivid detail Louis’ limousine, attire, demeanor, and entourage as they arrive at Madison Square Garden. The chapter is devoted to the drama surrounding the fight, which Louis won two minutes and four seconds into the first round.

The remainder of the story, told in seven additional chapters, chronicles Louis’ life from birth (May 13, 1914) to death (April 12, 1981). In his second chapter, Jakou-bek depicts Louis’ early life on farms in rural Alabama and in the ghetto of Detroit. During the Depression, times became even harder. Louis quit school, helped the family to earn a living, and flirted with trouble. It was during this time that Thurston McKinney discovered Louis’ boxing ability and began to train him at the gym.

In chapter 3, Jakoubek describes Louis’ first fight and brutal defeat, after which Louis briefly retired from boxing. Hard work and low pay, however, quickly encouraged him to return and to perfect his boxing skills. After...

(The entire section is 512 words.)