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Posted October 22, 2013
When Max Starling¿s theatrical parents receive a sudden invitati
When Max Starling’s theatrical parents receive a sudden invitation to visit India at the behest of the esteemed Maharajah of Kashmir, no less, Max is excited at the thought of an adventure overseas. But when his parents just as suddenly disappear, leaving behind a mysterious and nonsensical note, he is perplexed and more than a little scared – for both himself and his parents.
As Max attempts to cope with the absence of his parents, he quickly realizes there is one advantage to being left alone – independence – and if he doesn’t want to lose it, he’ll need to find a job. And quick. But Max is only 12 years old (I’m sure he’d bristle at my use of the term “only”) and at that age, independence is a hard-earned gain.
As Max rides his bike around town in a fruitless search for employment, he happens on a precocious and very lost child by the name of Angel and therein discovers his calling. Ironically, it turns out, Max is good at finding solutions to people’s problems. And not your everyday run-of-the-mill-type solution. Nope. Max finds the solution that ends up bringing the most happiness. More than a finder of things or a mere detective, Max becomes the brilliant and mysterious Mister Max, Solutioneer!
Using tricks-of-the-trade learned from his parents, Max as Mister Max dons various disguises to interview suspects, follow leads, and sniff out the best solution. His creative and unique tactics to reveal the truth uncover a runaway child, a stray dog, a missing nephew, a lost love, a misplaced family heirloom, and, in the end, his newfound independence and a “sometimes” assistant. But being a brilliant Solutioneer can be quite taxing and in between finding solutions, Max paints clouds and wind in order to think, ponder, focus, and . . well . . . solutionize.
As Max continues to find both jobs and solutions through both reputation and luck, he is helped and hindered by a bevy of interesting characters. His Grammie, local librarian, lives in the house behind his and is a source of support throughout, especially at the beginning when his parents first disappear. She is the one who searches for clues to the disappearance of his parents and discovers the evidence that finally points them in the right direction.
Heading up the list of baddies are Madame Olenka, her uncle, and her cousin, known collectively as the Long-ears. While I enjoyed the badness of them, I didn’t understand the presence of them. They appear around the same time his parents disappear (coincidence?), ransack and try to steal his house, and then flee when Max and Pia (more on Pia below) don disguises and threaten to expose them. If the Long-ears feature prominently in the next two books in the series, then I wish their characters had been fleshed out a little more fully in this book. I barely got a feel for Madame Olenka (although it was definitely a oozing, slimey, gross kind of feel) and nothing at all for her uncle and nephew. If the Long-ears aren’t featured in the books to follow, then why include them at all? It would have been better to omit the Long-ears sub-plot entirely and create a better incentive for Max to look behind his parents’ framed posters. (Teaser!)
My favorite characters in the book are two schoolgirls named Clarissa and Pia. Clarissa is Mister Max’s first client, a deliciously spoiled and pretentious rich girl who loses a dog she never really cared about. She uses the loss of her dog to gain sympathy while wearing a black armband and rules the schoolyard with perfectly coiffed curls and a predilection for being the center of attention. Always. Her stamping and pouting and posturing in her embroidered frocks and straw bonnets are hilarious and I felt justifiably contented (and relieved) when she received the solution so richly deserved. While she doesn’t appear as often as some of the other characters, she is well-conceived and I enjoyed her obnoxious antics and those of her father. I hope she’ll make an appearance in the other books.
Pia is another school girl, annoyingly loud, but with a heart of gold and the brains to match. While both Clarissa and Pia are from wealthy and prominent families, they couldn’t be further apart in personalities. Pia pretty much insinuates herself into Max’s life from the moment they meet and turns out to be a quite competent assistant solutioneer herself. She reminds me of Pippi Longstocking. Creative. Fun. Loud. Never a dull moment. That’s Pippi…I mean, Pia. She helps Max remember there’s nothing wrong with needing a little help now and then, even if you are a renowned and independent solutioneer.
Mister Max seems to take place in England at the turn of the century, a time of horse dung and carriage oil, where automobiles are the exception and the streets are narrow and cobbled. The town even has a workhouse operated by an unscrupulous couple who barely fulfill their workers basic needs while they, of course, live in luxury. Max finds a solution to that problem!
While I enjoyed Mister Max immensely, there were a few plot lines that I just didn’t get. I’ve already mentioned the Long-ears above. But I also wondered why Max didn’t use his exceptional solutioneering skills to attempt to discover what happened to his parents. Instead, as also mentioned above, Grammie did all of the research while Max was only concerned with painting and making money to maintain his independence. I wanted to scream, “Stop painting the wind and go find your parents, dagnabbit!”
Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things ends with the discovery of an important clue to the whereabouts of Max’s parents and promises an interesting start to the next volume in the trilogy. I can’t wait to see where Mister Max’s solutioneering skills take him in his further adventures!
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Posted March 3, 2014
Title: Mister Max - The Book Of Lost Things - Mister Max Book 1
Title: Mister Max - The Book Of Lost Things - Mister Max Book 1Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Author: Cynthia Voigt
Illustrator: Iacopo Bruno
Publisher: Knopf Books For Young Readers
E-Book ASIN: B00VJG24M
Genre: Children's Fiction
Tags: Mystery, Drama, Suspense
Overall Rating: Very Good
Mister Max: The Book Of Lost Things is set in the Victorian Era. Max Starling is nearly thirteen and grew up around the theater. As the son of two acting parents. He has even performed small parts in different plays. When his parents go to India when they are hired as acting coaches, Max remains behind to fend for himself. Something he apparently has had to do quite often in the past. The his parents disappear and Max takes on odd jobs to earn money to take care of himself. Most of the jobs are finding missing objects. While interesting it is odd that the fact that his parents are missing are not the center of the story.
Although Max is only twelve, soon to be thirteen, many never question why he is alone with no guardian or parent and treat him as an adult. Although given the time the book is set in this is not unusual. Thirteen year olds were often out on their own on the streets making their own way when their families could not afford to feed, clothe and house them. Although I found fault with his parents for leaving Max behind when he was late getting to the boat. There is only one gangplank so they knew he was not on board and chose to go without him.
This is the first of a series, with the second coming out is due to come out in late 2014 and a third in late 2015. The writing is geared to young people ages 9-13 in my opinion. My nephew and I have a long standing habit. He lives in another state, but when he was younger he spent weekends and holidays with me. We would sit and read when he was just a toddler. As he grew older and could read on his own we would take turns reading. Now that he and his family are so far away we get on the phone each evening and read to one another. It took us a few weeks, but we both enjoyed Max's story. He said it reminds him of the hardy boys set in the "old times". He said he wants to share book two with me when it comes out. Perhaps it will come out this summer when he comes to visit otherwise we will be making a lot of long distance calls to read and discuss it.
Posted January 21, 2014
MISTER MAX IS A PRETTY GOOD BOOK.
I thought thar Mister Max was a pretty good book by Cynthia Voight. The second book is also pretty good bbut not as good as the first one. I really like Peia.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 18, 2013
Feed your child's IMAGINATION
Could you survive alone if you were a twelve-year-old boy whose parents have mysteriously disappeared? If you’re Max Starling, from a family of adventuresome actors, you just might! Of course, to survive, you need a job, right? Plucky Max has a gift for finding things. He can analyze a situation and follow the clues with the poise of a real detective! His ability to disguise himself and utilize his parents’ acting skills makes him a hit with people in need of a “solution” to their problems and starts him on the way to a full-fledged career as a “Solutioner!” Yet, the biggest mystery remains unsolved, where are his parents?Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
The Book of Lost Things by Cynthia Voigt, the first in the Mister Max Trilogy is delightful! Ms. Voigt has written with Middle Grade readers in mind with a deft pen and quirky tale filled with youthful adventure and fantasy. The stage is set without too much intense detail, and will keep younger readers enthralled and reading page after page. The cast of characters are wonderful, with Max being an over-the-top, fun, yet sweet young boy who is doing things in a larger-than –life way! Isn’t that the point of entertainment in books for younger readers? Give them just enough to feed their mind and grasp at all the possibilities and wonder!
An ARC edition was provided by NetGalley and Knopf Books for Young Readers in exchange for my honest review.