Biographies often focus on world leaders, inventors, or great artists. But young readers are interested in other types of personalities, too. Don Tate has researched the life of Friedrich Muller, who became known later Eugen Sandow - the strongest man on Earth. Sandow's early life is like something out of a Charles Atlas infomercial; he was a weakling as a child, but yearned to become as buff as the Olympic athletes of old. Later, during his university days, he actually ran off and joined a circus. Who wouldn't want to read about someone like that? Friedrich's desire for a better physique motivated him to exercise, pay attention in anatomy classes, and work out with weights until he achieved his goal. His story is one that shows what someone can accomplish with perseverance while working for a dream.
Don's illustrations show the contrast between Sandow's puny young body and his later, sculpted and defined form. Details of period fashions, including the enormous handlebar mustaches, show readers what the world looked like back in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The costumes of the body-building contestants will cause great amusement. Back matter includes an afterword, an historical photo of Sandow, suggestions on some exercises readers might like to try, and even a note from the author - who happens to have experience of his own in bodybuilding.
Picture book biographies are a fun way to explore different periods of history and to learn about role models of all sorts. Readers are lucky to have author/illustrators like Don Tate who create books about historical figures besides the usual few seen on library shelves.
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