The Strongest Man in the World by Lucie Papineau, illustrated by Caroline Hamel

   The Strongest Man in the World by Lucie Papineau, illustrated by Caroline Hamel. Translated by MaryChris Bradley. Auzou, 2017. 9782733846148

Format: Hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4.5

What did you like about the book? A picture book biography, translated from French, of the Québécois strong man Louis Cyr.  He was born in poverty in 1863, the oldest of 17 children. By the time he was twelve, he was a lumberjack stronger than men twice his age. He was famous for a stunt he performed in Boston where he lifted 14 large men sitting on a plank which was resting on his back. It comprised a weight of 4,337 pounds, which is a record even today.  The cartoon illustrations are done in a muted forest-y palette of red, yellow, green, brown and black, which channels the Canadian village where Cyr was born, and the bygone age. All of the people are drawn in this amusing style: stumpy, round and neckless, with the nose off to the side regardless of the perspective. It gives the book a homey feel, and reminded me of the Fisher Price Little People toys from the 1950’s. Somehow, these characterizations respect the historical personages, while giving them a playful childlike aspect. The text gives just enough information for a child to appreciate the timeless quality of a strong man. The book jacket opens out to become a giant poster with a timeline and vintage photographs of Louis Cyr. A fun read aloud.

Anything you didn’t like about it?

To whom would you recommend this book?  Another recent children’s biography of yet another Canadian strong man is The Great Antonio by Elise Gravel.

Who should buy this book? Elementary school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Biography

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbin Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: March 13, 2017

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