Mister Max and the Book of Lost Things by Cynthia Voigt
Best known for the Newbery Award winning book Homecoming, a compassionate and adventurous tale of a lost family of abandoned children, Cynthia Voigt has written a number of children’s books since her first success, with her most recent – Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things – as the first in a new series. The premise is familiar: Max’s parents mysteriously disappear, leaving him behind to live with his librarian grandmother. Young Max pursues a series of detective jobs to earn money as the search for his parents continues.
I persevered through Max’s search for a lost dog and his disguises in his actor parents’ costumes (they own the Starling theater), but when he “solves” the case of the mysterious missing spoon by finding that it had fallen behind the cabinet, I skipped to the last few pages to see if Max found his parents. He does – sort of. Since this is the first of three in the series, Voigt creates a scenario to tease readers into the next book. Unfortunately, the action is too slow, the crime-solving is tedious, and I found myself not interested in Max’s story.
Author of the Newbery winning book, Kira-Kira, Cynthia Kadahata’s new children’s book – The Thing About Luck – again taps into the Japanese family ethic, offering cultural insights as the 2013 National Book Award Winner for Young People’s Literature.
With the hard life of the combine operator who follows the wheat harvest as the catalyst for the story, Kadohata taps into the thoughts of a twelve-year-old girl as she changes into a responsible adult. Although the details of machine operation and time-sensitive crops were more than I needed, the family dynamics of Summer with her Japanese grandparents who work on a wheat-harvesting crew mix well with the occasional pithy advice. Overcoming her fears of mosquitos, boys, and growing up, Summer manages to save the family – with a little humor and a lot of inner courage.