Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Strongest Man in the World: Louis Cyr

The Strongest Man in the World: Louis Cyr

Nicolas Debon
Nonfiction Graphic Novel
For ages 6 and up
Groundwood, 2007   ISBN: 978-0888997319

When Louis Cyr was a little boy his grandfather, who was sure that Louis would one day be a very strong man, made his grandson train hard to develop his strength. After Grandpa died the Cyr family moved from Quebec to Massachusetts to work in textile factories and Louis entered a weightlifting contest at the annual country fair. The final challenge in the contest was to lift a huge French daft horse and Louis was the only one who succeeded in lifting the horse off the ground. That same night Louis met his future wife and not long after the young couple moved back to Quebec and Louis got a job as a lumberjack. One night Louis got a letter challenging him to a contest to determine who was the “strongest man in Canada.” The man who challenged him did his best to beat Louis but he failed and Louis’ fame spread.

Soon Louis was touring the country performing in all kinds of places. His wife had a baby and Louis bought a wagon and started a new tour as “The Strongest Man in Canada”. Louis’ fame grew so much that he was able to arrange a tour that went to Europe where he astounded audiences with his phenomenal strength. When he got back to North America he fulfilled a dream – Louis set up a circus of his own.

This unique graphic novel style picture book with its earth tone artwork beautifully tells the story of Louis Cyr in such a way that it is as if we are hearing the story from Louis Cyr’s own lips. Nicolas Debon begins his tale by showing the older and ailing Louis having to accept that he will soon have to retire. And as he thinks of having to retire he looks back at the journey he has made and he tells his young daughter Emiliana about that journey. We are lucky enough to be taken along for the ride.

At the back of the book an afterword provides further information about Louis Cyr, about the popularity of “strongmen” in the 1800’s and early 1900’s, and about what circuses were like during Cyr’s time.