Max Speed

illus. by Stephen Shaskan. 32p. S. & S. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481445900.
PreS-Gr 1—Max, a black boy, employs his active imagination and race car bed in a high-stakes adventure through his bedroom. Punctuating the text with bold digital artwork and relying on an eye-popping font, Shaskan uses space well, and his design invites children to bring their own toy cars to race alongside Max's as he avoids imaginary lava rivers and shark-infested waters. The mix of high design and old-fashioned slang, like Max's catchphrase "great gadzooks," gives this modern speedster a retro feel. The crux of this story is whether Max has met his match after encountering seemingly impossible obstacles. This is a complex concept for most young children and requires more contextual clues than what is provided here in words or illustrations. For example, when Max falls from the sky because of a malfunctioning jet pack, readers are asked, "Had Max met his match?" There is no physical opponent, since Max is up against gravity, and no answer is offered. Max beats gravity by saving himself with a parachute. Later on, when Max is battling a shark, it is easier for children to see who "the match" is because the opponent is physical. Most of the target audience will struggle with understanding the premise of this tale, although fans of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are will readily delight in discovering the similarities between the titles.
VERDICT An additional selection for libraries seeking books on imaginative play.

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