________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 7 . . . . November 21, 2008

cover Knockout! How "Little Giant" Tommy Burns Became the World Heavyweight Champion. (Recordbooks).

Rebecca Sjonger.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2008.
134 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55277-003-0 (pbk.),
ISBN 978-1-55277-004-7 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Burns, Tommy, 1881-1955-Juvenile literature.
Boxers (Sports)-Canada-Biography-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5-10 / Ages 10-15.

Review by Thomas F. Chambers.

**** /4


Sam knew that the telegram was a trick to upset Noah. "The Battleship sends that very same message to all his first-time opponents," he explained. Noah was so angry about the trick that he lashed out when he entered the ring. By the fourth round, Battleship was out cold.

Battleship stayed unconscious for at least half an hour. When he came to, he wondered aloud, "Did I lose?"

His trainer joked, "No, you won, but the ceiling fell on you once you got in the dressing room."


Knockout! is the story of Canadian, Tommy Burns, who, in 1906, became the World Heavyweight Boxing Champion. Born Noah Brusso in 1881, he changed his name to Burns believing that to be an Irish fighting name. The Irish were considered to be good boxers. Therefore, having an Irish name would help a boxer's career by attracting more spectators.

     The Burns story is one of guts and determination. If young readers like to learn about someone who succeeds against all odds, they will love Knockout! Burns, a genuine hero, faced numerous obstacles on his road to success, including poverty and a brutal stepfather. In addition, his small size was a major hurdle. Most of the men he fought were taller, heavier and had longer arms. Burns was fast, however, and a very good boxer, and he often gave his opponents an awful beating. His story is told in an uplifting fashion. While boxing may not be a sport to which many boys aspire, they will like Burns because of his sportsmanship, determination, and common decency. He was an outstanding athlete. In addition to boxing, he excelled at lacrosse and speed skating.

     Knockout! is very realistic and a pleasure to read. It has a useful glossary of boxing terms and is illustrated throughout with functional black and white photographs, mostly of Burns at various stages of his career. An interesting feature is the use of sidebars to inform readers of certain facts the author considered important. With titles such as "Boxing Day" or "Bust and Blubberweight," they make the Tommy Burns story more meaningful.

     Author, Rebecca Sjonger, has considerable experience with children's literature, having written 25 books of nonfiction for children and young adults. Her style is perfect for the recommended readership. In her hands, Burns comes to life, and readers become Burns' boosters. They almost imagine themselves in an arena watching him fight. Knockout! is ideal for recreational reading.

Highly Recommended.

Thomas F. Chambers, a retired college teacher, lives in North Bay, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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