Max's Words
  • Max's Words
  • Max's Words

Max's Words

5.0 7
by Kate Banks, Boris Kulikov

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Max's brothers have grand collections that everyone makes a big fuss over. Benjamin collects stamps and Karl collects coins, and neither one will share with their little brother. So Max decides to start a collection of his own. He's going to collect words. He starts with small words that he cuts out of newspapers and magazines, but soon his collection has spilled

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Max's brothers have grand collections that everyone makes a big fuss over. Benjamin collects stamps and Karl collects coins, and neither one will share with their little brother. So Max decides to start a collection of his own. He's going to collect words. He starts with small words that he cuts out of newspapers and magazines, but soon his collection has spilled out into the hall. All the while, his brothers are watching. Benjamin brags that he has one thousand stamps. Karl is just a few coins short of five hundred. But a thousand stamps is really just a bunch of stamps, and a lot of coins is only a heap of money. A pile of words, however, can make a story.

Bright, bold pictures incorporating clever wordplay accompany this highly original tale about a younger brother's ingenuity.

Max's Words is a 2007 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

Editorial Reviews


Kids are naturally inclined to collect things, and the idea of accumulating something intangible in this delightful homage to storytelling will intrigue them. In a word: captivating.
Publishers Weekly
Both clever and funny, Banks's (And if the Moon Could Talk) inventive picture book features literal and rambunctious word play. Max's brothers, Benjamin and Karl, each have impressive collections (stamps and coins, respectively). They laugh at Max when he decides to collect words. Kulikov's (Morris the Artist) clever illustrations feature Max's hundreds of words in different colors and fonts, sprinkled across the pages like confetti (at one point the boy is literally knee-deep in them). When Max's collection grows too large for his desk, he begins separating words into piles and realizes that, "when [he] puts his words in different orders, it made a big difference." (Writing "A blue crocodile ate the green iguana," he discovers, is very different from writing "The blue iguana ate a green crocodile.") When Max, with his hedgehog hair and thoughtful expressions, starts to write a story of his own about a worm and a crocodile, the real fun begins. Benjamin and Karl, always pictured as stuffy banker types with slicked-down hair and wearing vests, add sentences so the crocodile will eat Max's worm hero, and Max must race to find a sentence that will save his invented character. Banks's economically told tale brims with wit, and Kulikov's splashy illustrations easily keep the story Max writes from being confused with the overall plot. Readers and writers alike will enjoy the linguistic fun in this nearly word-perfect book. Ages 4-8. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Laura Ruttig
This delightfully surprising picture book turns words into art, as Max develops a first-rate collection of words to tempt his brothers into giving up of their own stamp and coin collections. Max starts with small words from newspapers and magazines, such as "the" and "who" working gradually towards bigger words like "alligator" and "hissed." Kulikov's illustrations are often unexpected, depicting Max and his family from unusual angles. With Kulikov's help, the words Max collects seem to develop lives of their own, gaining wings or turning into the shape they represent. For example, one lizard-shaped piece of paper walks across the page's surface for "iguana." The use of warm, mellow colors with very faint outlining, as well as the varied use of fonts, further gives the book a whimsical tone. Eventually the words turn literally into pictures of events, as Max discovers he has enough words to rearrange them into a story. Finally, Max's brothers are willing to trade—a stamp and a coin—just for the words to make another story.
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2-Max's two older brothers are serious collectors: Benjamin saves stamps and Karl keeps coins. The youngest boy decides to accumulate words. He carefully selects them from newspapers and magazines, cutting out and sorting them by category: colors, foods, small ones, big ones. He copies entries from the dictionary onto pieces of paper and adds them to his mounting collection. It doesn't matter if coins or stamps are moved around, but words can be arranged and rearranged to create stories. Even though his siblings won't share pieces of their collections, Max gives away words and the three boys devise a short story together. Imaginative, softly colored illustrations reveal the gathered words scattered all over the pages. They are fine examples of concrete poetry: "HUNGRY" has a chunk bitten out of it; "ALLIGATOR" has teeth and an eye peering from the R; "BASEBALL" is printed in the shape of a bat. The text is set in a variety of styles and sometimes curves around the piles of Max's collection. This tale pays homage to the written word and may get children thinking about cutting and pasting their own stories or creating concrete poetry.-Maryann H. Owen, Racine Public Library, WI Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
When a lad's request for a stamp or a coin from his brothers' collections is rudely rejected, he takes up collecting something far more valuable. Kulikov's pop-eyed, faintly grotesque figures give the tale both a tongue-in-cheek air and a metaphorical quality. Max, disheveled and oddly dressed next to his neatly groomed siblings, is the picture of a creative type, and contemplating the drifts of words (in a wide variety of typefaces) that he's clipped from newspapers and magazines, he begins to lay out a story that soon has his brothers leaving their static gatherings of loot behind to join in: "When Benjamin put his stamps together, he had just a pile of stamps. When Karl put his coins together, he had just a pile of money. But when Max put his words together, he had a thought." It's a point that has been made elsewhere-most recently in Roni Schotter's The Boy Who Loved Words (March 2006), illustrated by Giselle Potter-but is always worth making again. (Picture book. 6-8)
Children's Literature - Kristina Cassidy
Max's older brothers are collectors. Benjamin collects stamps and Karl collects coins. Max wants to collect something too, so he starts cutting words out of magazines and newspapers. Benjamin and Karl think his collection is odd at first, but then Max has enough words to begin arranging them. First he makes interesting sentences, then whole stories. The cut out words are drawn to resemble or relate to the meaning of the word ("hungry" has a bite taken out of the paper) and are strewn around each page. Once the words are put into sentences, they are arranged to reflect the meaning of the sentence. By the time the story begins, the cut out words sit on one page while the story is on the facing page. By the end of the story, Benjamin and Karl have seen the value of Max's collection and want to collect some words of their own. The boys and their home are drawn to look somewhat old-fashioned. The older boys have slicked down, parted hair and dress in an older, more formal style. The audio book narrated by actor T.R. Knight includes two tracks, each just under nine minutes long. One track includes page turn signals, while the other does not. Both include light background music and sounds. Reading the picture book while listening to the narration may help struggling readers to identify and decode unfamiliar words. This wonderful and charming book would make an excellent introduction to a classroom or home activity inviting children to collect their own words and put them into sentences and stories. Reviewer: Kristina Cassidy

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Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
Max's Words Series, #1
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
10.34(w) x 10.25(h) x 0.35(d)
420L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

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Max's Words 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Tracy-M More than 1 year ago
I used this book in 1st grade to introduce how words are used to create exciting sentences. So many mini lessons can come from this book - how to sort words, how to add adjectives to simple sentences, etc. Gave students "Word Journals" afterward to start collecting their own words. Great success! LOVE this book! Thanks Kate Banks!
donut33 More than 1 year ago
I used this book to teaching writing in second grade and my kids loved it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this book for my 2nd grade class to start a word study. The kids loved the story and the illustrations. They also loved cutting apart magazines to find words that they could join together to create interesting phrases to improve their own stories. The kids were able to manipulate words easier after they had cut them out... just like Max, the main character in the story. As a parent, it was a whimsical tale that my own elementary-aged children enjoyed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story for for children who are learning how to read and write. It is especially good for teaching children how to make sentences. My son had a little difficulty with reading and some of the things the little boy did in the book, he did with his reading tutor. Great for children who are struggling with reading and writing. I am a teacher and I throughly enjoyed reading it to my son.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago