Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things by Cynthia Voigt
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: 10 September 2013
Age Level: Middle-Grade
Source: eARC from NetGalley
Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound
Newbery medalist Cynthia Voigt presents a rollicking mystery in three acts!
Max's parents are missing. They are actors, and thus unpredictable, but sailing away, leaving Max with only a cryptic note, is unusual even for them. Did they intend to leave him behind? Have they been kidnapped?
Until he can figure it out, Max feels it's safer to keep a low profile. Hiding out is no problem for a child of the theater. Max has played many roles, he can be whoever he needs to be to blend in. But finding a job is tricky, no matter what costume he dons.
Ironically, it turns out Max has a talent for finding things. He finds a runaway child, a stray dog, a missing heirloom, a lost love. . . . So is he a finder? A detective? No, it's more. Max finds a way to solve people's problems—he engineers better outcomes for them. He becomes Mister Max, Solutioneer.
Now if only he could find a solution to his own problems . . .
I think I've become a fan of Cynthia Voigt. I'll be honest, I haven't read anything by this Newbery winner yet. I know! It's criminal, right? But honestly, her books were never assigned to me in school nor were they even on my radar. When I had the chance to read Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things, however, my curiosity was piqued. This story sounded like something my over-active imagination would simply devour, so naturally I agreed to read it. I am so ridiculously glad that I gave this story - and this author - a chance, because this book is a delight!
There is a bit of a confession due. I read this book back in September, right before it came out, but I lost the notes I wrote. I was totally going to have this review posted on time, but was thwarted by my own forgetfulness and talent for losing things. I have been trying to be my own type of Mister Max for months, searching for my notes and trying to think of where I might have placed them. Today, I found those notes. The reason I share this confession is because, after rereading my notes, this story came flooding back to me as vivid as the day I read it. It's truly a testament to Max and his amazing author that a person as forgetful as myself can recall the story, and emotions connected to the experience of reading it, with such clarity.
Max Starling is one of the most likable characters you will ever have the pleasure of meeting within the pages of a book. He's a smart, creative twelve-year-old with a knack for figuring things out. Max is extremely clever and I believe children will find him to be someone they not only can relate to, but will want to emulate. When his parents disappear - after receiving a semi-sketchy invitation from a Maharajah in India to start a theatre company there - Max is faced with a nearly impossible situation. His Grammie can take him in, but she's barely able to support herself on her librarian salary. Being a retired school teacher, Grammie can tutor him in some subjects, solving the problem about his school. However, Max is determined to make a living on his own and find a way to support his search for his parents. Being such a clever kid, he kind of stumbles upon a talent he didn't know he had. He's really good at finding things and finding solutions to situations others might have more trouble with. I think growing up with such creative, dramatic, out-of-the-box parents was a great thing for developing this particular talent. He is able to see things from many different angles, thus coming to ingenious solutions. Not only that, but he utilizes the costumes from his parents theatre company to play many different roles during his search for answers. I absolutely love this clever, quirky book!
Along his many adventures and jobs, Max meets a whole host of fascinating characters. My favorite, other than Max's wonderful Grammie, is Pia. She is also a clever twelve-year-old and a great asset to Max. She asks a ton of questions, which annoys Max to no end, but they always seem to be the right ones to help him when he's stumped. She's seriously an entertaining character! I loved how reluctant Max was to let her into his life, but she is so persistent that he never stood a chance, really. Along with Grammie and Pia, I also really liked his tutor/flatmate, Ari; the baker extraordinaire, Gabrielle; the interesting and unpredictable Baroness Barthold; and the eccentric painter, Joachim. This story is chock full of wonderful and quirky characters.
Never having read anything by Cynthia Voigt, I'm not quite sure if this novel is in any way similar to her others. However, I loved the style and writing of The Book of Lost Things so much that I am definitely going to try more of her books! The pacing dragged just a tiny bit, but even those parts were necessary for the story as a whole, so it didn't bother me at all. Some plot points were a little easy for me to predict; but seeing as I'm not the targeted audience, this shouldn't be an issue for those who are. The adventure and mystery keep this story moving, but it's Max himself who truly ignites your imagination and captures your heart. I must also mention the incredibly talented illustrator, Iacopo Bruno. Though the advanced copy I received didn't have all the illustrations, the cover and those images that were available are stunning. They truly add that little bit extra to make this story come to life even more. (Honestly, check out his website and look at his amazing work!)
Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things is a funny, exciting, refreshing mystery for the kid in all of us. I know I keep using this word, but this truly is a clever novel built around a clever kid written by an exceedingly clever author. There is no doubt in my mind that I will be picking up the next book in this series, Mister Max: The Book of Secrets, when it comes out this September. I simply can't wait to read more about Mister Max!
A favorite quote: "The May sky lay closer overhead, its blue deeper and fluffier. It is what seems to happen in May, as if the sky itself bends down to inhale the scents of damp soil and new grass, of jasmine and hyacinth and primroses. It was the kind of perfect day that should bring only good news--that a war has ended or that lost parents are found."