Tuesday, August 1, 2017

PICTURE BOOK REVIEWS: Strong as Sandow/Long-Armed Ludy/Alexander Graham Bell Answers the Call


Little Friedrich Muller was a puny weakling who longed to be athletic and strong like the ancient Roman gladiators. He exercised and exercised. But he to no avail.

As a young man, he found himself under the tutelage of a professional body builder. Friedrich worked and worked. He changed his name to Eugen Sandow and he got bigger and stronger. Everyone wanted to become "as strong as Sandow."

Inspired by his own experiences body-building, Don Tate tells the story of how Eugen Sandow changed the way people think about strength and exercise and made it a part of everyday life.

Backmatter includes more information about Sandow, suggestions for exercise, an author's note, and a bibliography.


One of the challenges of writing a picture biography is knowing how much to include and how much to leave out, simply because there isn't room for everything.  And as Don Tate discusses in his author's note at the end of the book, it becomes even more difficult when only a little it is known about the person and what is known is contradictory or exaggerated.  That's the challenge that Tate faced writing about Eugen Sandow (formerly Friedrich Muller).  To counteract the lack of knowledge, especially about Sandow's early years, Tate focuses on the most admirable part of the man's life: the importance of physical exercise and good health.  That doesn't mean he overlooks the problems or some of the uncomfortable aspects of Sandow's life (such as posing for art classes to help pay the bills and possible trickery during some of his shows).  I did appreciate the effort the author/illustrator made to not depict Sandow's full nude form, (even though it's clear that he did pose nude on more than one occasion).  I did enjoy reading about some of the competitions that Sandow competed in and his efforts to encourage people to get physically fit.  I also really liked the backmatter that Tate included about his own bodybuilding experiences and the controversy's that dogged Sandow's life.  This is a well-done picture book biography that would be great for teaching about the challenges of writing biographies as well as what leads certain author's to certain topics.

Picture book biography


Lucile “Ludy” Godbold was six feet tall and skinnier than a Carolina pine and an exceptional athlete. In her final year on the track team at Winthrop College in South Carolina, Ludy tried the shot put and she made that iron ball sail with her long, skinny arms. But when Ludy qualified for the first Women's Olympics in 1922, Ludy had no money to go.

Thanks to the help of her college and classmates, Ludy traveled to Paris and won the gold medal with more than a foot to spare. Hooray for Ludy!

Based on a true story about a little-known athlete and a unique event in women's sports history.


I really enjoyed this slightly fictionalized picture book biography of Lucile Godbold.  Not only is it beautifully written and illustrated but the style the author used makes the book excellent for reading out loud.  There is both humor and heart in this story of a woman who stepped up to become a champion with the help of her college classmates and instructors.  One thing that I especially liked it that when you look at Ludy, you would not immediately think 'great athlete' or 'future shot put champion'.  At six feet tall and "skinnier than a Carolina pine" Ludy worked hard to become a talented athlete.  I also enjoyed learning about the First Women's Olympics, something I'd never heard of before picking up this book.  The author and illustrator should be congratulated on the fine work they've done with this book, including the fun text, informative back notes, and great illustrations.


Well before Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, Aleck (as his family called him) was a curious boy, interested in how and why he was able to hear the world all around him. His father was a speech therapist who invented the Visible Alphabet and his mother was hearing impaired, which only made Aleck even more fascinated by sound vibration and modes of communication.

Naturally inquisitive and inclined to test his knowledge, young Aleck was the perfect person to grow up in the Age of Invention. As a kid he toyed with sound vibrations and began a life of inventing.

This in-depth look at the life and inspiration of the brilliant man who invented the tele-phone is sure to fire up the imaginations of young readers who question why and how things work.

Driven by curiosity and an eagerness to help others, Aleck became a teacher for the deaf. His eventual invention of the telephone proved that he never stopped thinking big or experimenting with sound.

Backmatter includes more information about Bell's inventions, a timeline of his life, a bibliography, and sources for further learning.


I'm always amazed by how much I learn from reading children's books.  I knew that Bell created the telephone, that is what he is best known for after all, but I had no idea that he invented so many other things or that he'd been so involved with helping people who were deaf.  Fraser does a fabulous job with this book showing how the amazing things Bell did as an adult come from the inquisitive child that he'd been.  It's also clear that his family had a tremendous impact on his passion for sound and interest in helping people who were deaf (his mother was hard of hearing).  In addition to telling Aleck's story, the author also includes brief sidebars about important things related to the time in which Bell lived including pictures and information about the Age of Invention, the telegraph, two-handed communication, and the talking machine he created with his two brothers.  The illustrations are also delightful as a combination of animation and photographs creating beautiful collage art.  At the end of the book the author/illustrator includes additional information about other inventions that Bell worked on as well as a timeline and notes about her reasons for writing the book and illustrating it the way she did.  I especially loved the pictures of various phones in use since it's first creation, this would be a fun book to share with children to encourage curiosity and creative thinking.


  1. I love a good Picture Book...and when you can combine them into edutainment, you've got a double win. Thanks for the share on theses lovely titles!

  2. I hadn't known about either the Olympics book nor the Alexander Graham Bell book. Already requested them from my library. Thanks!


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