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)