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Friday, December 26, 2014

Andre The Giant: Life and Legend, by Gox Brown. First Second, Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast Books, 2014. $19.99 ages 12 and up

"Wait, explain it again. Talk slowly. Hold on a second, boss. Explain that again very slowly. Remember: I'm translating. ACROMEGALY. As big as he is now... He'll age prematurely. His brow and jaw will grow more pronounced. His heart and organs won't be able to keep up with his body. His joints, too. He'll be a cripple. Then the doctor said he won't live past forty..."

I am not a wrestling fan. Despite that, I have some knowledge of the wrestler known as Andre the Giant. What movie lover hasn't seen The Princess Bride? I had never read anything about the man until I pored over this Box Brown graphic biography of him.

The French Giant's life was relatively unknown to his many fans. Mr. Brown sets out to change that. Can you begin to imagine some of the difficulties he must have faced as a school boy? He could not fit on the bus, never mind any desk meant for children his age. His celebrity made him a name as both wrestler and actor. He was successful at both, and was admired by his fans.
In reading his story, he became more human to me. The pain that he suffered as a result of the disease, his constant travel, his friendships, his work ethic are shown with candor and often a hint of humor. I can only imagine the research that Box Brown must have done to write the attention-grabbing details that make this a readable and honorable look at this gentle giant who died at the very young age of 46 in 1993.

"You know, boss...
people think I
have a wonderful
They see me travel 
all over the world...
eating at the
best restaurants,
drinking fine
But I can
see people...
They point
at me...
People look
at me and think...
What kind of man is he?"

Sad, but true.

Luckily for his readers, Box Brown's passion for wrestling, and for learning as much as he could about Andre allows a very personal look at a man whose life was fraught with tragedy and celebrity. It is an empathetic and poignant homage. The graphic format will appeal to many readers in the target audience, and is sure to inspire empathy for the 'gentle giant'.

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