Strong Man: The Story of Charles Atlas

Overview

He could tear phone books in half, bend iron bars into giant Us, and pull a 145,000-pound train with his bare hands. But Charles Atlas wasn't always one of America's most famous strong men. Once upon a time, he was a "97-pound weakling" who was picked on by neighborhood bullies.Using her trademark humor, Meghan McCarthy brings to life the story of Charles Atlas, the man who would become "the World's Most Perfectly Developed Man" and, with his fitness campaign, inspired the entire nation to get in shape, eat ...

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Overview

He could tear phone books in half, bend iron bars into giant Us, and pull a 145,000-pound train with his bare hands. But Charles Atlas wasn't always one of America's most famous strong men. Once upon a time, he was a "97-pound weakling" who was picked on by neighborhood bullies.Using her trademark humor, Meghan McCarthy brings to life the story of Charles Atlas, the man who would become "the World's Most Perfectly Developed Man" and, with his fitness campaign, inspired the entire nation to get in shape, eat right, and take charge of our lives.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Starred review, Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2007:
"[B]oth 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."

Starred review, Booklist, June 1 and 15, 2007:
"[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."

Starred review, School Library Journal, July 2007:
"This colorful book captures both the essence and mystique of an American icon."

Publishers Weekly

McCarthy (Aliens Are Coming!) mines history in this profile of bodybuilder Charles Atlas. As a boy, Italian-born Angelo Siciliano arrives in a Brooklyn neighborhood of "Irish, Jewish, Polish, and Italian immigrants. Life on the streets was tough " for the puny lad. McCarthy pictures the quintessential moment when the "98 pound weakling" gets sand kicked in his face on the beach at Coney Island, although her onomatopoeic "Splat!" fails to convey sand's grit and the teasing bully in his Chaplin-era two-piece swimsuit is none too scary. Slender Angelo takes to admiring Greek heroes; inspired by watching a zoo's muscular lion, he develops his own fitness regimen. Before long, a friend compares him to an Atlas statue, bestowing "a new name for a new body!" McCarthy's acrylic portraits of Atlas emphasize big soulful eyes, a happy grin and ballooning muscles; a closing "Try It Yourself!" section recommends exercises for interested readers. Much is made of Atlas's being named "The World's Most Perfectly Developed Man," yet given his notable transformation, McCarthy's cartoonish portrayal hardly seems to do his accomplishments justice. Additionally the paintings of physical activity have a listless, static quality; the immobile characters barely appear to exert themselves. But the story of how Atlas inspired millions worldwide to live healthier lives is captivating in itself-eager readers can find additional historical details in a comprehensive endnote. Ages 5-8. (June)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
School Library Journal

Gr 1-5
An entertaining introduction to a fitness guru and entrepreneur. Beginning with young Angelo Siciliano's arrival at Ellis Island, the book describes the scrawny Italian immigrant's boyhood in a rough Brooklyn neighborhood and-when he was older-the storied seaside encounter with a sand-kicking bully (witnessed by his date). Humiliated and determined to change his life, the young man decided to change his body. While at the zoo, he watched a lion stretch and noticed its muscles rippling beneath its skin. "Eureka!" He devised and followed an exercise routine that pitted one muscle against another, gradually becoming "Strong as an ox!" The rest of the book covers his new name (for his resemblance to a statue of Atlas), his success as a sideshow strongman and bodybuilder, his famed fitness course, and his emphasis on healthy living. An author's note makes it clear that Atlas's story has been much mythologized and that little is known about his private life. McCarthy cleverly makes the most of this, smoothly weaving facts, quotes, and dialogue balloons into a comic-book-like narrative that perfectly suits its subject. Similarly, the acrylic illustrations feature cartoon characters and appropriately over-the-top humor. One scene shows the skinny youth locked in a staring contest with a muscle-bound statue of Hercules, while another shows the pumped-up Atlas, goggle eyes bulging, straining to pull a train. This colorful book captures both the essence and mystique of an American icon.
—Joy FleishhackerCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
From the inspired take on the 1939 War of the Worlds broadcast (Aliens Are Coming!, 2006), McCarthy turns her attention to another icon of 20th-century pop culture, Charles Atlas. Bug-eyed cartoony acrylics depict the arrival on American shores of young Angelo Siciliano and the now-legendary sand-kicking episode on Coney Island's beach: "SPLAT!" Inspired by a statue of Hercules in a museum and a powerful lion at the zoo, he determined to remake himself. Of course, he did, becoming the inspiration for thousands of comics-reading 98-pound weaklings that followed. Such a story could easily be deadly in its virtue, but both the humor of the illustrations and the accretion of cool Atlas facts-he served as the model for over 75 statues around the country; he still reigns as "The World's Most Perfectly Developed Man"-keep things light without undercutting the author's genuine admiration for the man. Comic-strip panels appropriately share the space with traditional spreads and mock black-and-white photographs, delivering a sunny account of Atlas's life and career. An extensive author's note expands on both man and influence; four exercises are also provided. (bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375829406
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 6/12/2007
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 1,450,689
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD740L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.99 (w) x 10.32 (h) x 0.33 (d)

Meet the Author

Meghan McCarthy is the author-illustrator of The Adventures of Patty and the Big Red Bus and Aliens Are Coming!, which was praised in a starred review in School Library Journal as, "a unique treatment of a fascinating topic, and sure to have wide appeal." She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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