Strong as Sandow: How Eugen Sandow Became the Strongest Man on Earth
Author/Illustrator: Don Tate
Publisher: Charlesbridge, 2017
Source: Personal Purchase
If you look back at the panel discussion post, you’ll see that Don Tate was the artist who suffered from “crippling shyness.” Keep that in mind as I tell you more about this book.
I have to admit that I did not know who Eugen Sandow was before purchasing this book. For those other readers who are also not familiar with him, he is considered the father of modern-day body building.
Sandow (born Friedrich Wilhelm Muller) was not a natural-born athlete. Although he loved athletics, he was a weak and sickly child. He exercised like crazy, but didn’t have the success he hoped. Although he studied anatomy at the university, it wasn’t until he ran away to become an acrobat that he began to develop the muscles that would eventually have him gain fame as the strongest man on earth. While his job with the circus would not last, it propelled his bodybuilding career forward.
Now, as inspirational as Sandow’s story is, what I found to be even more inspirational was the story from Tate’s Author’s Note. He was a skinny kid and his father gave him information on nutrition and bodybuilding to help him beef up. It wasn’t until he was in his thirties that he began competing. His first efforts may have been disappointing, but Tate persevered – and won! There are lots of kids out there who are interested in bodybuilding and while it is nice to learn about it from a historical perspective, I think it is even better to hear about it from someone like Tate. Here is someone who was skinny and shy and artistic, not someone you would think of as a strong bodybuilder. He is, however, a strong person and I truly admired that he shared his personal story and interest in bodybuilding.
Tate admits in his Note that this story may not be historically accurate on all counts. Despite his research into the man’s life, very little is actually known about Eugen Sandow. The lion story seems to have been exceptionally difficult to gain the truth. Still, I am glad it was included.
I haven’t talked much about Tate’s illustrations. That is not because I didn’t appreciate them; I just found the story fascinating. I feel sure, however, that those who want to appreciate the book for its drawings will do so as much as I did for the text.