The Story of Charles Atlas, Strong Man

The Story of Charles Atlas, Strong Man
by Meghan McCarthy.

This is a picture book biography of Charles Atlas, who started life with the name of Angelo Siciliano.  Atlas came to the U.S. from Italy through Ellis Island.  Throughout his boyhood he was the victim of bullies.  When he saw a statue of Hercules at a museum, Atlas was inspired to get himself into shape.  But the first weights he used don’t seem to work.  Finally, Atlas created a new fitness routine and his body started to change.  His career after that was all based on his muscles and body.  He sold his fitness course to millions of people and his measurements are on file as the perfect human specimen. 

Picture book biographies often are dry and uninspiring, but this one will hold the interest of readers.  Even children uninterested in body building will be inspired by the way Atlas refused to give up and persevered in changing his life and build.  There is much more here than muscles, there is a real heart.

Recommended for children who normally won’t read picture books, this melding of picture book and true story will perfectly suit some readers.  The book also reads aloud well, and could be used in elementary school as a great example of a biography. 

The Boy Who Painted Dragons

The Boy Who Painted Dragons by Demi.

Ping is a boy who paints dragons, but he doesn’t do it out of love or joy, he does it because he is terrified of dragons.  Each dragon he paints, he hopes that he will no longer be afraid.  He covers entire rooms in dragons, but his fear doesn’t lessen.  When the dragons in heaven take an interest in his painting, Ping is sent on a quest for three treasures.  Ping learns to face his fear and truly honor the dragons with his paintings.

The illustrations in this book are marvelous, filled with metallic and brightly-colored Chinese dragons.  Children will be immediately drawn into the story with the promise of dragons and may be surprised to learn about the traditions of dragons in the East.  The story is told with flourishes and touches that match the flamboyance of the illustrations.  It is a single unified story.

The lessons of the dragons:  Seek Your Truth, Find Your Truth and Dare to Be True will resound with children and adults alike.  It would make an interesting book to start a discussion on fears and overcoming them. 

Recommended for its multicultural focus and strong storytelling, this book will work well with a group.  It will be most appreciated by children age 6-8.