The Strongest Boy – Meet the Characters

Author: Renee Irving Lee

Illustrator: Goce Ilievski

Publisher: Lilly Pilly Publishing

“Every story starts with an idea, but it’s the characters that move this idea forward” Michael Scott

The characters are the people we fall in love with, the ones we laugh at, the family we learn with and the champions we watch eagerly to overcome great obstacles.  For children in particular, the characters they love most are the ones that they can relate with.  They love characters that aren’t perfect and sometimes make mistakes – because in some small way this reminds them of themselves.  Children love to know that someone who makes mistakes is still human, and the story still has a happy ending despite the character’s shortcomings or imperfections.

The Strongest Boy is full of lovable and not so perfect characters ….


Max is a young, rambunctious and impressionable boy.  Despite thinking that he is the strongest boy in the world, Max makes a quite few mistakes and bad choices at the start of the book.  His character grows immensely though over the story arc, which will make him very relatable and popular with young readers.

Max’s physical appearance was based on my 5-year old son, Caden.  When choosing an illustrator, I showed the final candidates a picture of Caden, and asked them for a rough sketch of the character.  This was the first picture that Goce presented me with and I fell in love with it straight away.




Bruce is cheeky and mischievous and can often be heard encouraging Max to do the wrong thing.

By the end of my first draft, Bruce was the only character without a name.  I wanted the name to be a bit different and a bit unusual for a bird – but I was drawing a blank of what that could possibly be.  One day, however when I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, I came across a picture of a yellow and green budgerigar owned by an old work colleague and fellow author, Matthew J. Barbeler. I knew instantly that Bruce would be the perfect bird for The Strongest Boy!

brucethe real bruce


Max’s Dad

Max’s Dad plays a small but extremely powerful role within the story. He is calm, wise and kind.  His parenting style is a mixture of both my Dad and my husband, Jeff.  Max looks up to his Dad, and takes on his insightful advice within the story without hesitation.

I asked Goce to make Max’s Dad’s character look like my husband.  I actually didn’t even show him a picture, I just told him to make the Dad look like an adult version of Max with brown hair.  What do you think?

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If you would like to check out the characters of The Strongest Boy for yourself, you can order a copy here

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