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MISTER MAX: THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS by Cynthia Voigt Alfred A. Knopf, 2013 (ages 8-12)
12 year old Max Starling and his actor parents are looking forward to an adventure in India after a mysterious invitation from a maharajah arrives requesting that his parents start a theatre. However, on the day of departure Max arrives at the docks to meet his parents – but they have disappeared and no one has heard of the ship he is to meet. Max is concerned about what happened to his parents (and worried that they left him on purpose) – but now what to do? He and his grandmother (who lives next door) begin investigating the disappearance with very few clues. In the meantime, Max is determined to be independent and support himself. No one is hiring and he has no skills. His accidental reunion of a wandering toddler with the child’s mother – proves lucky and providential. The grateful mother rewards him a modest sum and begins to tell friends about his talents. Soon Max is being asked to find other missing items. Max resists the title – detective- and comes up with his own job description – “SOLUTIONEER.” Using the trunks and wardrobes of costumes from his parents’ theatrical roles to disguise himself as he takes on cases, and using his powers of observation developed as he watched rehearsals and performances, Max is able to eke out a modest living. With just the right touch he resolves the problems that come to him.
The final chapter gives Max and his grandmother the first clue to his parents’ disappearance. The book is fast-paced with a charming protagonist in Max. Readers will be eager to read his next adventures as he continues his search for his parents (and perhaps other lost things).
This is the first in a projected trilogy by Newbery Award winner and Maine resident Cynthia Voigt.
Today, we begin our book reviews of titles old and new!
Stickby Andy Pritchett, Candlewick Press, 2013
I can’t help it – I’m always drawn to picture books featuring dogs. I have been like this since I was a kid. Sometimes – I’m deeply disappointed in the book. However, the big-eared canine on the cover of this picture book did not disappoint.
The bubbling excitement of the pup, when a stick is discovered, seems like it should be contagious. He tries to find a friend to play ‘stick’ – but the cow, bird and pig have other interests. The poor puppy is dejected – and throws the stick away. But another puppy finds it and returns to play. The other animals (cow, bird and pig) are attracted by the joy playing ‘stick’ brings to the pups – and join in.
The story is told using only 6 words. But the text size, punctuation marks – and mostly the expressiveness of body language explore the emotions of the simple tale. Speech balloons indicate who is speaking. The page colors are bright and cheerful until the two page gray gloom of the poor pup’s dejection at not finding a friend.
The story is VERY simple, and the characters are appealing. The very limited vocabulary could work for emerging readers. It is very simply told but captures the joy of finding a friend for very young readers.