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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

NIne Words Max, written by Dan Bar - el and illustrated by David Huyck. Tundra Books, 2014. $19.99 ages 6 and up

"It's been said that a butterfly's flapping wings might cause a storm on the other side of the world. Eggs cannot be unscrambled, and you should never put them all in one basket. Everywhere around us are sounds, but at some point there was suddenly music too. If all the world's a stage, then we should be wearing more makeup."

Max is a talker...not unlike two amazing women I know. Are you listening, Erin and Breanna? His curiosity leads him to ask the questions he needs answered in order to up the amount of real information he can hold in his head, and then happily share with anyone who might listen.

His three brothers? No, they are quite the opposite. They have no need to talk, and find themselves frustrated by their sibling's constant chatter. They see no value in learning more than they already know:

"In the evenings, the three older princes would sprawl on the royal couch and watch hours upon hours of puppet shows. Despite his best efforts to fit in, Maximilian could not sit and stare silently at the box."

When the four are left in charge of the kingdom in their parents' absence, it takes no time for the three older siblings to bring an end to Maximilian's verbosity. All they need is a wizard willing to cast a spell. The wizard suggests ten words at a time...too many. The decision is made for Maximilian to speak only nine words at a time.  A visiting monarch tests the brothers' diplomacy. Maximilian, who knows and understands what needs to be done cannot fully explain anything, and chaos is the result. The Queen is markedly unimpressed!

As is common in much folklore, magic can be undone, order can be restored, and the good will triumph...which is just as it should be.
This is a fine story, entertaining and filled with engaging language. It's funny, and has something fairly subtle to say about the state of communication in today's world (a la Nine Words Max). Listeners are certain to enjoy it, and readers will take pleasure in sharing its humor.

David Huyck describes his illustrations as artwork 'rendered digitally with sensors and doohickeys and magic.' Indeed...and a great deal of fun. Maximilian is a wide-eyed, bespectacled studious sort tuned to all the details of the kingdom, while his brothers are shown as doofuses more interested in boring pursuits than anything of importance. His cartoon-like work is filled with detail and comedy, panels and spots, and a good deal of action. Sure to invite giggles at every turn of the page...I think that each successive share will elicit further discussion.

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