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Children's Nonfiction Sports & Recreation

The Strongest Man in the World

by (author) Nicolas Debon

Groundwood Books Ltd
Initial publish date
Apr 2007
Sports & Recreation, Biography, Historical
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2007
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Out of print

This edition is not currently available in bookstores. Check your local library or search for used copies at Abebooks.

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 0 to 18
  • Grade: p to 12
  • Reading age: 0


Strongman and circus owner Louis Cyr captured the world's imagination with his remarkable feats of strength and his mammoth proportions. Set in Quebec at the turn of the 20th century, this biography, in graphic-novel style, features the celebrity in his old age as he recalls the glory days for his young daughter. In vivid detail he recounts his adventures traveling through Europe, performing feats of strength that astounded audiences and remain unsurpassed today.

Nicolas Debon's vibrant illustrations and moving text bring the world of long-ago circuses and celebrities to life for young readers.

About the author

Nicolas Debon was born in Northern France and later moved to Nancy where he studied art at l'Ecole nationale des Beaux-Arts before moving to Toronto for ten years. His picture book The Strongest Man in the World won the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award. Nicolas currently lives in France.

Nicolas Debon's profile page


  • Long-listed, Great Lakes Great Books Award
  • Commended, USBBY Outstanding International Books
  • Commended, Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books Blue Ribbons
  • Winner, Boston Globe/Horn Book Award - Non-Fiction
  • Commended, Quill & Quire Books of the Year 2007 List

Editorial Reviews cleverly portrayed as if chiseled from a boulder, and the restrained earth and blue-gray shades evoke an aura of melancholy memory.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

...a masterpiece that is certain to entertain readers of all ages. The illustrations are both entertaining and excellent read for the struggling reader who is intimidated with books that contain a lot of text.

Resource Links

Debon has performed a service in bringing to our attention a little-known Quebec figure.

Quill & Quire

Debon uses the book's graphic novel-style format to communicate immediacy and intimacy; we feel as if we really know the man...The book's success is due partly to Debon's skill as an artist and partly to the passion he clearly feels for his subject and imparts to his audience.


Debon proves that it's never too early to fine-tune a child's sense of nostalgia...


Debon uses strip-cartooning techniques to move the story forward quickly, but his soft-edged, earth-toned, watercolour illustrations also give modern children a strong sense of a world far outside their experience.

City Parent (Toronto)


Globe and Mail

The story of his life is well suited to the graphic novel style employed here...text and images provide wonderful detail to convey Cyr's impressive strength and vitality...The drawings have a great old-time feel to them, recreating a time of small towns, traveling circuses, and astonishing feats.

Montreal Review of Books

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...We are lucky enough to be taken along for the ride.

Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Review

...will appeal to reluctant readers.

Sacramento Bee

The folk-style illustration panels, often complemented by full-page paintings, move the story forward and place it firmly in its historical period....popular...

School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

...Debon deftly captures the life of a Canadian luminary...His stunning dialogue makes you feel as if you're sitting in the circus audience.

Canadian Children's Book Centre

A thoroughly absorbing tale about a turn-of-the-20th-century celebrity.

Publishers Weekly

...enough information is given to entice young readers to learn more about this little known Canadian...this will be a welcome addition to library shelves.

CM Magazine

Librarian Reviews

The Strongest Man in the World: Louis Cyr

As a dedicated fan of professional wrestling and strong men competitions, I was eager to read Nicolas Debon’s latest graphic novel-style biography, The Strongest Man in theWorld: Louis Cyr.

The Strongest Man in the World takes the reader on a journey through the life of Louis Cyr (1863-1912), a world famous Canadian strongman. From his grandfather’s strength training sessions to the first time he lifts a horse up off the ground using his bare hands, Cyr is depicted as a gentle, humble man who has found a way to use his unusual strength to support his family.

As with Four Pictures by Emily Carr, Debon deftly captures the life of a Canadian luminary in under 40 pages. His stunning illustrations are rendered in muted earth tones and his sharp dialogue makes you feel as if you’re sitting in the circus audience. Even though no illustration of Cyr is larger than 3 inches tall, he seems humongous! And when I was greeted with the real photographs of Cyr in the Afterword, I thought he looked tiny in comparison to Debon’s majestic portraits. I enjoyed this book immensely and am ashamed to say that my only criticism is cliché – I wish it were longer!

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Spring 2007. Vol.30 No.2.

Other titles by Nicolas Debon