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Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things by Cynthia Voigt – review
Max Starling’s theatrical father likes to say that at twelve a boy is independent. He also likes to boast (about his acting skills, his wife’s acting skills, a fortune only his family knows is metaphorical), but more than anything he likes to have adventures. Max Starling’s equally theatrical mother is not a boaster, but she enjoys a good adventure as much as her husband. When these two disappear, what can sort-of-theatrical Max and his not-at-all theatrical grandmother do? They have to wait to find out something, anything, and to worry, and, in Max’s case, to figure out how to earn a living at the same time as he maintains his independence. This is the first of three books, all featuring the mysterious Mister Max.
What I expected: I expected a middle-grade adventure with an engaging character and an interesting mystery to keep me entertained throughout.
What I got: I got a wonderful middle-grade adventure full of really interesting characters, a couple of neat little mysteries, one big mystery and a story I completely enjoyed.
What I liked: I really liked Max and his grandmother as well as several of the supporting characters. I liked that Max had to work at finding a way to support himself and that there were not plot devices left there for him to take advantage of – hidden stashes of money or the like – and that he worked hard at trying to be independent but still wanted to hang out with grandma quite often. I liked that he wrestled with the difference between right and wrong when both options are hurtful to someone. I like that he was clever but not enough to make everything too easy.
What I did not: There was not much not to like here. There were a few times where it seemed very hard to imagine Max getting away with certain disguises and the like because of his age, but this just added to the fun of the story.
Cover Talk: I adore this cover. It is pretty, definitely attractive enough to make someone pick it up out of a raft of other books, and it gives a great deal of atmospheric and story information while still being fun and interesting. The stylistic title treatment really makes it all come together. I truly believe that these days the middle-grade books get all the best covers.
Recommendation: Kids and adults alike will enjoy this one. There is not truly any magic or anything of a paranormal bent, but the story feels like a fantasy tale nonetheless. Readers who like clever boys who are also good people, and those who enjoy mysteries and tales of kids making their own way will most definitely enjoy this one. This was the first I had read by this author, and I have now added several of her other works to my to read list.