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STRONG by Rob Kearney


by Rob Kearney & Eric Rosswood ; illustrated by Nidhi Chanani

Pub Date: May 10th, 2022
ISBN: 978-0-316-29290-0
Publisher: Little, Brown

The first openly gay strongman overhauls stereotypes.

Whether opening “the TIGHTEST pickle jars” or carrying many packed grocery bags into the house all at once, Rob Kearney is a strong kid. As he grows up, he finds his calling in strength sports. A teacher introduces 17-year-old Rob to the Strongman competition, kindling his dream of becoming a weightlifting champion. First, he trains to lift 150 pounds, then 200, then 300, then 400—the equivalent of “more than 800 STUFFED RAINBOW UNICORNS.” Despite all of his training, Rob flounders at his first big competition since he doesn’t feel quite right in his “boring” and “bleak” weightlifting gear. That changes when Rob falls in love with Joey, who pushes Rob to wear whatever “bright, bold colors” he wants. But can Rob win the title of “strongest person in North America?” Real-life strongman Kearney and LGBTQ+ parenting expert Rosswood team up to create this positive, affirming picture-book memoir. Although one scene depicts an instance of dress code discrimination, the story maintains a sunny tone. Certain words are bolded throughout the text for emphasis, particularly those related to Rob’s impressive feats. Rob and Joey are both White and have mohawks, but Chanani’s colorful digital illustrations depict ethnically diverse spectators. Backmatter delves more deeply into strongman events and—staying within the gender binary—mentions the existence of “a separate strongwoman division.” (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A bright, bold picture-book biography that challenges conceptions of masculinity and strength.

(author's note, bibliography) (Picture-book biography. 4-8)