Great Illustrated Books

Strong Man: The Story of Charles Atlas

By Meghan Mccarthy

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2007
Pages : 40
Suggested Ages: 6-10
ISBN: 9780375929403

Remember the Charles Atlas ads in the back of the comic books declaring, "Don't be a 97-pound weakling! Don't let bullies kick sand in your face!"? Did you know he was a real guy? An inspiration for all us flab-filled folks, this peppy picture book biography of the famed bodybuilder, Charles Atlas, looks like a comic book about a superhero. Born Angelo Siciliano in 1893, he emigrated from Italy as a boy, settled in Brooklyn, and got beat up a lot. On a date at the beach, he says he was humiliated when a man actually kicked sand in his face. He tried to bulk up by lifting weights; it didn't help. Observing a lion stretching at the zoo, Angelo recalled, "The muscles ran around like rabbits under a rug." Inspired, he then devised a new fitness routine, pitting one muscle against another. Pretty soon he was strong as an ox, and his friends nicknamed him Charles Atlas, after the Greek god. As a strongman at Coney Island, he tore phone books in half, bent iron bars with his bare hands, and was ultimately crowned "The World's Most Perfectly Developed Man."

At the back of the book are four illustrated "Try It Yourself!" exercises kids can do. It's never too early to build that body. The Author's Note provides more facts about Atlas, including a very hunky black and white photo of him in a bathing suit. Wow. Time to work on those abs . . . Go to his website and you can still find his fitness program. And at you'll find wonderful articles by and photos of the man himself. See how boxers and wrestlers get in shape in Brooklyn, New York at the most famous boxing gym in the world in Ted Lewin's gritty picture book profile of a young fighter, At Gleason's Gym.

Reviewed by : JF.


If you love this book, then try:

Buehner, Caralyn. Superdog: The Heart of a Hero. HarperCollins, 2004. ISBN-10: 0066236207

Lewin, Ted. At Gleason's Gym. Roaring Brook, 2007. ISBN-13: 978-1596432314

McCarthy, Meghan. Aliens Are Coming!: The True Account Of The 1938 War Of The Worlds Radio Broadcast. Knopf, 2006. ISBN-13: 978-0375835186

Critics have said

Both the humor of the illustrations and the accretion of cool Atlas facts ... keep things light without undercutting the author's genuine admiration for the man.
Kirkus Reviews
A cheerful introduction to a cultural legend whose messages about self-respect and healthy choices are just as timely today as they were 50 years ago.
This colorful book captures both the essence and mystique of an American icon.
School Library Journal