Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things

When I was in seventh grade, we read Dicey's Song for school.  I'm not sure why we did the second book in the Homecoming trilogy, but as a student, 'twas not for me to question why.  Literally all I remember of that book is the beginning, where the kids are painting a barn, and Dicey takes off her top because she's really hot, and someone (her brother?  Her grandmother?) yells at her to cover up because her breasts are developing.

I swear that none of this was in a creepy way.  I just couldn't comprehend, as a seventh grader, running around with no top on.  Now that I'm a youth services librarian, I should probably read the whole trilogy, as I'd probably actually get something useful out of it, but even the small, strange sliver of Dicey's Song that I remember didn't stop me from requesting an ARC of Cynthia Voigt's newest book: Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things.

Yes.  I have had this ARC sitting on my Kindle for almost a year.  Eep.  Sorry.  But hey, I did read it (finally) and I am so glad that I did!

Max's parents are Actors.  Not actors, but Actors.  It's a vaguely Victorian Londonish setting, but Voigt leaves it rather vague, which I like.  One day, Max's father receives a Very Important Letter from the Maharajah of Kashmir, requesting his and his wife's presence in India to form a special troupe of actors for the Maharajah himself.  Being more of a larger-than-life dreamer than a pragmatist, Max's father immediately accepts the invitation.  For himself and his wife.  See, Max is forgotten a lot.  He helps out with his parents' theatre, but he's more of a realist.  He often feels left out of their loud, stage lit world.  Thankfully, Max pipes up and basically says, "What about me?"  Parental unit feels suitably abashed and amends their acceptance only if Max can come as well.  The Indian ruler promises a ticket for Max, and all is well.

The morning they are set to sail, Max heads off for his last painting lesson with Joachim.  Max loves watercolors, and he paints because he loves it.  Refreshingly, Max is no prodigy, just a hard worker who relives stress through painting.  As he zips back to the dock, he doesn't see the boat his parents were supposed to board.  After speaking to the harbormaster, he realizes that that boat never existed, and that his parents are in a Very Bad Situation.  Thankfully, his Gram lives just around the corner, and she's a kick-butt librarian.  Together, they work to track down Max's parents.

Only ... there's the trouble of money.  Just like today, librarians don't make a ton of money.  Max needs to survive, and he wants to prove that he can live independently.  In sum, he needs a job.  He comes upon his profession most strangely: he gets a lost child an ice cream cone.  From there it's a wild ride of quests for things lost and hidden.  Madame Olenka, she of the curiously long earlobes,  gets involved (here things get a bit Snickety (not persnickety, mind)) and Max must stay one step ahead of the baddies, find his parents, and manage his self-appointed assistant.  It's a wonderfully charming story with fantastic illustrations by Jacopo Bruno, who is probably one of my favorite illustrators of children's books working today.

My favorite quote:

"The air in the library rooms was silent, full of ideas, the thinking of the writers of books, the thinking of the readers of books.  And not just writers and readers, either, Max thought.  The ideas and visions of artists emanated from tall, heavy volumes of art history in their special shelves behind Grammie's desk, beside equally tall shelves filled with the decisions of lawmakers and the statistics collected by record keepers."

I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.


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