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How "Little Giant" Tommy Burns Became the World Heavyweight Champion

By Rebecca Sjonger

$9.95 Paperback
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Series: Lorimer Recordbooks

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Noah Brusso was small in size, but feisty. After winning a bare-knuckle boxing tournament at age ten, he found his way out of poverty. Noah changed his name to Tommy Burns, a tough Irish fighting name, and boxed his way to the top. In 1906, he won both the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship and the fame he longed for. At a time when few other boxers dared to do the same, Tommy Burns was willing to defend his title against boxers of all races and nationalities, forever changing the sport. Rebecca Sjonger details both Burns' unbelievable rise and his spectacular fall.

[Fry Reading Level - 3.8

"If young readers like to learn about someone who succeeds against all odds, they will love Knockout!"

Knockout! is very realistic and a pleasure to read."

"Highly recommended."

- Thomas F. Chambers Canadian Matierals - Volume XV - No. 7

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.

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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364 Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

- Thomas F. Chambers Canadian Materials - Volume XV - No. 7

REBECCA SJONGER is the author of twenty-five non-fiction books for children and young adults, including Life in the Far North and The Life Cycle of a Bat, as well as other "Resource Links of the Year" selections. She lives in Huntsville, Ontario.

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Publication Details:

Binding: Paperback, 136 pages
Publication Date: 15th May 2008
ISBN: 9781552770030
Format: 7in x 4.25in

Binding: Hardback, 136 pages
Publication Date: 20th August 2008
ISBN: 9781552770047
Format: 7in x 4.25in

Binding: Electronic book text
Publication Date: 26th September 2011
ISBN: 9781552779088
Format: EPUB

BISAC Code:  JNF007100, JNF054000
Imprint: Lorimer

Interest age: From 12 To 17
Fry Reading Level [grade]: 3.8
Lexile Reading Level: HL720L


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Record Books

Recordbooks Series

Sport biographies highlighting key social issues

Series Website

Series features

  • Ideal for reluctant readers
  • Hi-lo
  • Short chapters, easy-to-read format
  • Great for ESL and adult students
  • Writing with a flair for making history feel like novels
  • Accompanied by historical photos and sports trivia

"Historic photos and short chapters promise to make the book palatable for reluctant readers."
—Quill & Quire

"Kids who like 'infotainment' will be drawn to these books that read like a novel but includes fact boxes, photographs and a glossary." —CM Magazine

Recordbooks are non-fiction stories that help reluctant readers understand history and social issues through the lens of the true story of a sports hero. Showing the process of social change on issues like racism, diversity and conflict, these books engage and provide historical context by telling the often-heroic story of how an athlete or a team worked to change attitudes around them.