Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things

Mister Max:  The Book of Lost Things
by Cynthia Voigt
Illustrated by Iacopo Bruno
Previewed from NetGalley
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013
Audience:  Grades 3 to 6
ISBN:  9780307976189
Publication Date:  September 10, 2013

Max is the son of two very well regarded actors, William and Mary Starling, and while Max doesn't quite shine as brightly as his parents on the stage, he is a fine actor, but he uses his acting skills for other purposes.  When his parents get an invitation from the Maharajeh of Kashimir for his parents to go on a grand adventure setting up an acting company in India, at first, Max fears he will be left behind, but then his parents secure a ticket for him.  Then, when Max goes to the dock to board the ship bound for India, he sees no ship and does not find his parents.  Now Max must live independently, but with the help of his grandmother, his tutor, and a pesky school girl, Max takes up finding lost things and solving problems, but what will he do about the biggest problem of all - the disappearance of his parents?  The first book of the Mister Max series introduces readers to a kind-hearted character with a talent for becoming someone else.

Max is a great character in a strange situation.  He wants to be independent, yet he wants his parents to pay him a little more attention.  He likes that his Granny is right next door, but he wants to make it on his own.  He wants to follow the law, but wants to follow his heart too.  As far as being a solutioneer, Max stumbles upon that quite by accident, but he is a very attentive young man and it's that attention that helps him solve the cases of the missing spoon, missing dog, and missing magazines.  But his kind-heart is what helps him solve the bigger problems like what to do with the dog, how to help Nance, and  heal two broken hearts.

The supporting characters in this book are fantastic too.  Granny, the librarian, was a very smart choice.  Not only do her librarian skills occasionally help Max in his problems, but any time a writer wants to instantly increase the likability of her books, just add a plucky librarian and all librarians will love you!  And Granny is quite feisty.  Ari, the tutor, is kind, but sad and even when his mystery is solved, his still cares for Max and wants to stay with him.  Pia is wonderfully drawn.  She's annoying and frustrating, but quite helpful when she pauses long enough to breathe.

I couldn't quite figure out the setting.  It is a generic town, not based on any real city, although I feel like it is in England.  The time was more puzzling.  There is talk of horse and carriage, automobiles, electricity, and telephones all mashed together.  That leads me to believe it is the turn of the century of sorts when all of these conveniences were just being adopted.  The descriptions of the parks, and homes were quite vivid however, so not knowing the exact year wasn't so troubling.

I did feel like the story ran a little long.  When Max comes to the final mystery of the missing magazines I was starting to get tired of the book, but that could have more to do with my growing reading list than the actual plot.  It was a sweet resolution so I am not altogether unhappy about it, but I hope that future books in this series will stay right around the 400 page mark and not continue to get longer.

The mystery element surrounding Max's parents disappearance will easily tie the next books together and should make for a satisfying overall plot.  I would recommend this book to readers that have enjoyed Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events, and All the Wrong Questions series, and well as readers that like period books like Liesl and Po.

Happy Reading!

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