The life of Eugen Sandow (1867–1925), a Victorian-era bodybuilding superstar dubbed “the Modern Hercules,” is rife with mystery. Not only did his family destroy his belongings after his death, but articles and books on Sandow are often contradictory. Tate (a former bodybuilder himself ) reconciles these challenges by telling the story as “Sandow would have wanted it told”—with drama and flair. This decision could have easily resulted in an over-the-top portrayal of the subject; instead, Tate’s chronological narrative portrays an ambitious, hardworking showman with a drive for excellence—from “feeble” boy to acrobat, strongman, fitness guru, and creator of the first organized bodybuilding contest. And although admiring of Sandow’s impressive physique and strength, Tate is skeptical of the man’s purported antics (such as defeating a lion). Tate argues that Sandow was more than just a strongman; that his attention to both mind and body inspired the people of his time—and can inspire people today—to devote “more attention to their own health.” The digital illustrations—rendered in a gentle, textured black outline housing a warm color palette—show an approachable version of the athlete. Additionally, decorative caption boxes and some stylized lettering (seen on marquees and banners) help develop a period feel. Back matter includes an afterword, exercise techniques, a bibliography, an author’s note, and quotation sources. A powerful pairing with Meghan McCarthy’s Strong Man and Nicolas Debon’s The Strongest Man in the World. —Horn Book STARRED REVIEW
Sparked by his own passion for bodybuilding and physical fitness, Tate recounts the story of Eugen Sandow (1867–1925) in this inspirational picture book. The biography begins during Sandow’s childhood in Prussia, where he used sports and exercise to develop from a frail, skinny child into a robust, physically active young man and later into a world-famous strongman in the United States, with his own successful business enterprise. The text progresses chronologically, with references to various geographic settings and specific historical events. Tate’s mixed-media illustrations feature characters, especially Sandow, with oversize, highly expressive faces. The muted colors are appropriate to the historical setting. The artwork is chock-full of humorous, cartoonish details that greatly enhance the story. In the afterword, Tate provides additional biographical information on both Sandow and himself. He includes a few simple exercises for kids and a well-developed bibliography. This title would be a good companion to Meghan McCarthy’s Strong Man: The Story of Charles Atlas, reinforcing the themes of physical fitness and the importance of healthy choices. VERDICT An excellent introduction to a historical figure that will appeal not only to children already interested in sports and fitness but also to those in need of encouragement.
—School Library Journal STARRED REVIEW