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Reviewed by Rhian Waller for Readers' Favorite
An unnamed little boy has a funny idea of what it means to be strong. His pet parrot/imaginary friend, Bruce (who initially acts like the feathery green spirit of toxic masculinity) has the same view. Strength is nothing but brawn, stubbornness and pure machismo. When the little boy is invited to a party, this seems like the perfect opportunity to show off his “strength” – by smashing, crashing and crushing. This doesn’t make him popular. The poor kid is left puzzled and understandably so, given some of the ideas he (and Peter Power) have probably absorbed. Fortunately, Dad is around to offer some wise words and turn things around. Maybe he can win his friends back and perhaps even Bruce the musclebound parrot is capable of change, too.
The Strongest Boy by Renee Irving Lee is a lively, timely book with a good message. Far from undermining the idea of boyish strength, it simply redefines it in a positive way. The illustrations are simple and vibrant. There’s nothing wrong with simple: it makes everything nice and clear. The artist, Goce Ilievski, has done a great job of bringing the story to life with bold, expressive characters and understated but warm backgrounds. I particularly like Bruce’s transformations. On the odd double-page spreads featuring a full illustration, the artist’s imagination is given space to unfold with charming results. This book would make a great talking point with children about tantrums and dealing with your problems constructively, all while maintaining a sense of fun and good humor. Some grown-ups could probably benefit from this lesson, too.