Book Review | Zishe the Strongman
by Robert Rubinstein

Score: 3.5

© 2010, Kar-Ben Publishing

From the time he was 3 years old, Siegmund Breitbart, known as Zishe, was strong enough to lift his Orthodox Jewish blacksmith father’s nine-pound hammers. As he grew, so did his strength, until everyone in the Polish town where he grew up, knew of his skill and strength. Soon all of Poland had heard about his talents, and he was recruited by a travelling circus to perform throughout Europe. When he at last reached the United States, he was known as “The Iron King.”

This fascinating book details Zishe’s life as a strongman, but what is exceptional about it is the attention it pays to Zishe’s community service activities. In addition to being a strongman, Zishe also played the cello. It seems that wherever he travelled, Zishe would make every effort to call on the Jewish communities in the area – visiting the sick, playing with local Jewish children, introducing himself to community leaders – and playing his cello wherever he could. Demonstrating that this “strong man” had a heart of gold creates a beautiful picture for the very young.

That picture is fortified by the powerful illustrations in this marvelous book. Using strong, bold lines for definition and rich sepia tone shades to play on the vintage nature of the story, each picture reinforces the text in an excellent manner.  Young boys will especially love this story as they read about a real life Jewish superhero.

Grade Level: K-3rd

Ages: 5-9

©2011 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and all rights reserved.
Books used in this review were provided by my local public library.
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