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Monday, January 3, 2011

Art & Max, written and illustrated by David Wiesner. Houghton Mifflin, Thomas Allen, 2010. $22.50 ages 5 and up

"Careful, Max!
Hey Art, that's great!

The name is Arthur.
I can paint too, Arthur!
You, Max? Don't be ridiculous."

It would be nearly impossible to guess what is next for this remarkable artist. Everything he does is unbelievably good; and so far from the last thing that he did, guessing would be a waste of time. But, he NEVER disappoints and he certainly keeps that record intact as he introduces children and their adults to Art and Max.

You can tell the myriad of differences between Art and Max by carefully watching them in the opening frames. Max is running full tilt, arms askew and legs pumping...straight into Art who is sedately and carefully painting a portrait of a proud and regal lizard. Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother provides the musical backdrop, the desert sun of Coconino County, Arizona gives light and heat to the portrait and the lizards gathered to observe the goings-on are aghast. Max wants to be a painter, too. Art is doubtful.

When Max begins to slink away, leaving gathered art supplies with the much bigger and bolder lizard, Art acquiesces and Max is on his way to artistic renown, with a curt admonition; "Just don't get in the way."

You know that is not going to happen. Max is unsure about a subject so when Art suggests using himself as subject, Max gets right to work, literally painting Art with bold, bright splashes of color. Dumbfounded, Art explodes and sends bold patches of color flying, leaving a watercolored, scaleless lizard in his stead. Max knows what to do...get a fan and start the drying process. Art's complaint that he is thirsty brings Max running with water, washing all color from Art's body as he imbibes. An thin black outline of the former artist known as Arthur is all that is left....and it doens't take long for Max to take care of that, as well.

With comic tenacity Max is able to reconstruct Art. Still, no color. Wait, what's he going to do with that vacuum? Let me just say this: Protege becomes teacher and all is well in the lizard's artistic world!

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