Zishe the Strongman

  • Interest Level: Kindergarten - Grade 3
  • Reading Level: Grade 3

At the age of 3, Zishe was lifting a nine-pound hammer in his father’s blacksmith shop. By the age of eleven, there was not a bar he couldn’t bend or a chain he could not snap.

This is the unusual story of Zishe, a poor Polish Jew, who became the featured Strongman of circuses throughout the world. Based on the true story of Zishe of Lodz.

Format Your Price Add
Interest Level Kindergarten - Grade 3
Reading Level Grade 3
Genre Picture Books
Copyright 2010
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Kar-Ben Publishing ®
Language English
Number of Pages 32
Publication Date 2014-01-01
Text Type Fiction
Dewey 974.7'1043092
Graphics Full-color illustrations
Dimensions 10.375 x 8.875
ATOS Reading Level 4.6
Accelerated Reader® Quiz 139329
Accelerated Reader® Points 0.5
Features Author/Illustrator biography, Author/Illustrator note, Awards, Original artwork, and Reviewed


  • Children's Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year, Winner, 2010


The Horn Book Guide

“Textured, gold-hued illustrations have an organic feel that reflects the uplifting experiences of a kind-hearted man with extraordinary capabilities.” —The Horn Book Guide

Kirkus Reviews

Zishe, a poor Polish Jew and a blacksmith’s son, displayed unusual strength from the time he was three years old. Able to lift heavy weights, bend steel bars and break metal chains, Zishe was soon recruited by a variety of circuses to perform throughout Europe and later the United States as the Strongman. A highlight of his career occurred in 1923 in New York City, when he was challenged as the Iron King to haul ten men in a wagon down Fifth Avenue by a single leather strap held in his teeth. Zishe, a true figure of circus history, born Siegmund Breitbart in Lodz, Poland, in 1883, had a gentle, caring side as well. He sought out the Jewish community in each town he performed in and played his cello for the hospitalized. Soft, earth-toned crayon drawings of a Samson-like figure energize this real-life superman story told, appropriately, with a bit of a big-top flair and a healthy sense of ethnic pride. (author’s note) (Picture book/biography. 4-6)

Author: Robert Rubinstein

Robert Rubinstein is a storyteller, author, and middle school teacher. He has performed in many venues nationwide, and traveled with 41 storytellers from across the country to China. He is the creator and director of the Troupe of Tellers from Roosevelt Middle School, and has produced and directed Eugene's Multi-Cultural Storytelling Festival for over 20 years. He lives in Eugene, OR.

Illustrator: Woody Miller

As a child, Woody Miller spent many hours at the "timeout" table in the kitchen corner, after cutting the phone cord to get mom's attention (yes, phones used to have cords). Lucky for him, there were paper and crayons to help pass the time, and he usually continued drawing long after time out was over. Years later, Woody still spends time coloring and painting. He lives in the Bay Area with his wife and two black cats.