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.
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.
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.
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."
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