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Review of Strong as Sandow: How Eugen Sandow Became 
the Strongest Man on Earth

Strong as Sandow: How Eugen Sandow Became 
the Strongest Man on Earth
by Don Tate; illus. by the author
Primary    Charlesbridge    40 pp.
8/17    978-1-58089-628-3    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-60734-886-3    $9.99

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 depicts 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 (rev. 9/07) and Nicolas Debon’s The Strongest Man in the World (rev. 5/07).

From the September/October 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Patrick Gall

Patrick Gall works as a librarian for children in preschool through eighth grade at the Catherine Cook School in Chicago.

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