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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things, written by Cynthia Voigt. Alfred A. Knopf, Random House. 2013. $18.99 ages 8 and up

"Max stood at the window, watching the woman and her child leave the ice cream shop and turn to walk away down the street. The mother's fingers were wrapped around the little boy's hand. A fist squeezed his heart, and he thought he wasn't going to be able to wait for word of his parents. "Max?" Gabrielle asked, as if to call him to attention. "What's your other name, Max?"

When a letter arrives inviting his parents to travel to India to set up a theatre group, Max gets set to leave with them. On his way to the ship, he makes a stop and by the time he arrives at the wharf, his parents have departed. Did they mean to leave him behind, or was it an accident? He sets himself the task of answering that question.

In this first of a trilogy of books about Mister Max by the remarkably talented Cynthia Voigt, we spend a lot of time learning about the boy, his family and his need to earn a living despite being a 12-year-old. It turns out that without having realized it, he is quite adept at solving mysteries. The people who hire him are pleased with his work. First he finds a lost boy, then a dog, a silver spoon and finally the true identity of his supportive friends.

He is practiced in the theatrical arts, having worked with his parents from a young age; he uses those skills to create new characters while detecting. He is a good boy, reliable, helpful, caring and honest. I like his heart and his mind.

I have great admiration for Cynthia Voigt's ability to bring us memorable characters. She creates believable scenarios that keep me reading and wanting to know more. I liked each of Max's quiet adventures, and his ability to cope with the hand he has been dealt. As Max, who is himself a lost thing, is able to return other lost things to their proper place, he also finds a new version of himself. His work is satisfying, he is able to support himself, and he makes life better for those around him.

If you find yourself in need of a solutioneer, you would do well to look for Mister Max. You may just have to wait until his next story is on book shelves. It will be worth the wait, I am sure.


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