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Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things



Intriguing tale of boy as detective after parents vanish.

What parents need to know

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
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.
Not applicable

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. 

Kids say

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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.

Families can talk 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

Author:Cynthia Voigt
Illustrator:Iacopo Bruno
Topics:Adventures, Great boy role models
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Random House Children's Books
Publication date:September 10, 2013
Number of pages:400
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12
Available on:Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

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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 simply "no there there" -- the story is meandering and eventually proves pointless. The central mystery of the book -- why the young protagonist's parents disappeared -- is hurriedly and unsatisfactorily tied up at the end. It left me shaking my head and wondering why I bothered. My son, who is 7, lost interest midway. I finished to find out whether it was worth returning to at a later date. It isn't.


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