Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things Book Poster Image
Intriguing tale of boy as detective after parents vanish.

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value
Max's Grammie, a librarian, puts her skill set to work to try to find out what happened to Max's parents. The story incorporates references to Shakespeare, Euclid, and more. 
 
Positive Messages
The right thing to do isn't always the most obvious, as Max comes to understand. Perceptiveness and patience can point to solutions for the thorniest of problems. Class differences are a central theme, but Max finds friends and connections across the gulf of wealth and privilege.
 
Positive Role Models & Representations
Max is practical and resourceful. Despite his youth, he takes the time to think before acting. He's empathetic, appreciating that few things should be taken at face value. He strives to do the right thing for all parties and takes his responsibilities seriously. His Grammie is similarly grounded. She does what she can for him within her limited means.
 
Violence & Scariness
An intruder ransacks Max's house and injures his tutor. Max and Grammie are worried that his father's references to a fortune in his home might attract trouble.
 
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Max's parents are mysteriously absent in Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things. Max doesn't know if they've abandoned him or fallen victim to misfortune. He strives to avoid lying but resorts to disguising himself in his investigative work as a "solutioneer." The wealthy families in Max's town are not portrayed favorably, but Max -- who's not well off -- finds a way to work with class differences rather than chafe at them. The book is the first in a planned trilogy. 
 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byoldctmom February 14, 2014

A Contrived Tale

This book was a huge disappointment, particularly as I bought it new, in hard cover, and was initially expecting an unusual and intriguing tale. There's si... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byIsy8911 April 28, 2017

Great characters, loose plotline

The character development is really nice here and it really feels like many characters are actually familiar by the end of the book. The plot line is followed k... Continue reading

What's the story?

Max is used to his parents' theatrics -- they're actors, and a little drama and self-absorption are to be expected. But when he arrives at the dock to join them on a journey to India, where they're to create a theatrical company for a maharajah, he finds no sign of the ship or of his parents. They've gone. Did they abandon him? Were they deceived? All Max knows is that he's alone. His Grammie next door can help him, but he must get work and find his own way. Max soon discovers he has a knack for finding things. Disguised in his parents' costumes, he turns his talent for problem-solving to practical -- and profitable -- use. As good as he is at helping others, however, Max finds the mystery of his missing parents stubbornly perplexing.

Is it any good?

Voigt is a skilled writer, and her prose and pacing may challenge younger children. Patient readers who enjoy connecting the dots will savor a nuanced mystery with the promise of more satisfying adventures as the trilogy unfolds.
 
In MISTER MAX: THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS, Cynthia Voigt -- author of Homecoming -- presents another resourceful child left to fend without parents. Max, challenged to prove his independence at age 12, is a perceptive and resourceful old soul. An atypical 12-year-old, he's often mistaken for an adult: He never seems to want to play, or shirk responsibility, or act selfishly. That may sound dreary, but he's a charming hero who grows on you.
 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Max's mix of honesty and deceit. He avoids outright lies yet isn't fully honest. Is the distinction important? Is he justifying immoral behavior, or is he doing the right thing?
  •  
  • Absent parents are a common theme in children's stories. Why do you think this is?

  • Max dons disguises and adopts the mannerisms of theatrical characters when he's on the job. How does this help him?

Book details

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

For kids who love mystery and adventure

Our editors recommend

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate