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STRONG AS SANDOW

HOW EUGEN SANDOW BECAME THE STRONGEST MAN ON EARTH

Readers will find parallels with Meghan McCarthy’s picture-book biography of Charles Atlas, Strong Man (2007), but Tate’s...

Tate introduces his readers to one of the first international sports stars in a well-researched biography of bodybuilding strongman Eugen Sandow.

Friedrich Wilhelm Müller began life in Prussia as a weak and sickly child who longed for activity. A boyhood trip to Italy changed Friedrich’s life when he learned about the gladiators of Rome and their belief in daily strenuous exercise. Tate explores Müller’s life as a student, circus performer, and model as he grows (pun absolutely intended) into the professional strongman Eugen Sandow. Digitally created illustrations use dramatic grainy shadows that suggest the inky carbon smudges of old newspaper photos. As in many old newspapers, all the characters depicted in the story are white. Tate wisely introduces some diversity in the backmatter by showing a multiracial group of boys and girls as models for four simple exercises. The other strongmen that appear in the book present a range of physiques, a nicely designed if subtle hat tip to the idea that fitness can be reflected in different weights and sizes. Additional backmatter includes an afterword on Sandow’s life, Tate’s relationship with the sport of bodybuilding, and a bibliography that includes web links when possible. The only thing that’s missing is a timeline, a feature that is always appreciated.

Readers will find parallels with Meghan McCarthy’s picture-book biography of Charles Atlas, Strong Man (2007), but Tate’s celebration of Eugen Sandow makes a solid addition to any biography section. (Picture book/biography. 7-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-58089-628-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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JUST LIKE JESSE OWENS

A pivotal moment in a child’s life, at once stirring and authentically personal.

Before growing up to become a major figure in the civil rights movement, a boy finds a role model.

Buffing up a childhood tale told by her renowned father, Young Shelton describes how young Andrew saw scary men marching in his New Orleans neighborhood (“It sounded like they were yelling ‘Hi, Hitler!’ ”). In response to his questions, his father took him to see a newsreel of Jesse Owens (“a runner who looked like me”) triumphing in the 1936 Olympics. “Racism is a sickness,” his father tells him. “We’ve got to help folks like that.” How? “Well, you can start by just being the best person you can be,” his father replies. “It’s what you do that counts.” In James’ hazy chalk pastels, Andrew joins racially diverse playmates (including a White child with an Irish accent proudly displaying the nickel he got from his aunt as a bribe to stop playing with “those Colored boys”) in tag and other games, playing catch with his dad, sitting in the midst of a cheering crowd in the local theater’s segregated balcony, and finally visualizing himself pelting down a track alongside his new hero—“head up, back straight, eyes focused,” as a thematically repeated line has it, on the finish line. An afterword by Young Shelton explains that she retold this story, told to her many times growing up, drawing from conversations with Young and from her own research; family photos are also included. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A pivotal moment in a child’s life, at once stirring and authentically personal. (illustrator’s note) (Autobiographical picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-545-55465-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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UGLY

An apt choice for collections that already have stronger alternatives, such as R.J. Palacio's Wonder (2012).

A memoir of the first 14 years in the life of Australian Robert Hoge, born with stunted legs and a tumor in the middle of his face.

In 1972, Robert is born, the youngest of five children, with fishlike eyes on the sides of his face, a massive lump in place of his nose, and malformed legs. As baby Robert is otherwise healthy, the doctors convince his parents to approve the first of many surgeries to reduce his facial difference. One leg is also amputated, and Robert comes home to his everyday white, working-class family. There's no particular theme to the tale of Robert's next decade and a half: he experiences school and teasing, attempts to participate in sports, and is shot down by a girl. Vignette-driven choppiness and the lack of an overarching narrative would make the likeliest audience be those who seek disability stories. However, young Robert's ongoing quest to identify as "normal"—a quest that remains unchanged until a sudden turnaround on the penultimate page—risks alienating readers comfortable with their disabilities. Brief lyrical moments ("as compulsory as soggy tomato sandwiches at snack time") appeal but are overwhelmed by the dry, distant prose dominating this autobiography.

An apt choice for collections that already have stronger alternatives, such as R.J. Palacio's Wonder (2012). (Memoir. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-425-28775-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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