Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things

Bk. 1. illus. by Iacopo Bruno. 384p. Knopf. Sept. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-307-97681-9; PLB $19.99. ISBN 978-0-375-97123-5; ebook $10.99. ISBN 978-0-307-97683-3. LC 2012033823.
Gr 5–8—Admirers of Voigt's "Tillerman" series (S & S) will recognize several plot points in this first volume of a proposed trilogy: a child is seemingly deserted by his parents and survives with the support of his grandmother. But there the similarities end, for this is a mystery-cum-adventure story with a 19th-century feel and an accumulation of improbabilities that build to a satisfyingly melodramatic climax. As Maximilian Starling wends his way around his nameless city trying to find an honest day's work, he stumbles across a series of people with problems, unanswered questions, unsatisfied longings, or vague states of malaise. And then there are the sinister types who seem intent on breaking into Max's house. What are they looking for? Fortunately, Max's parents were theatricals, which gives him both an intimate knowledge of roles to assume while pretending to be old enough for employment and an ample supply of costumes in which to disguise himself. Whether it's finding a good home for a lost dog, facilitating the reunion of disappointed lovers, or recovering a long-lost heirloom, Max displays good sense, a sensitive nature, and winning ingenuity. He resists being labeled a detective and since he merely guides people toward the resolution of their troubles, it's fitting that he calls himself a "solutioneer." By book's end, however, he has not answered his own questions. Readers still don't know what has happened to his parents, for example. This will likely leave them strangely contented, knowing that Voigt has so much more to reveal in the sequels to this comedic page-turner.—Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Library, NY
Max Starling, son of thespians William and Mary Starling, is looking forward to his family's trip to India to perform at the invitation of an enthusiastic maharaja. On the day of embarkation, however, he arrives at the dock to find his parents gone and no record of their ship. At first confounded (and more than a little worried that his parents have forgotten -- or even purposefully ditched -- him), Max soon rallies and vows to discover what happened to them. Determined to be independent, even from his librarian grandmother, Max looks for ways to support himself in the meantime, but no one is hiring until the day Max reunites a roaming toddler with his mother. The grateful woman not only pays him but recommends him to her friends, launching Max's career as a problem-solver and missing-object-finder, or, in his words, a "solutioneer." Max is a thoughtful and low-key hero, applying his analytical mind to problems not only involving missing heirlooms and family quarrels but also a dog's happiness and how to paint the wind. Although the parents' disappearance is underdeveloped, the entertaining and varied "solutioneering" episodes come together neatly at the climax. A final chapter gives Max his first solid lead in his parents' case, providing, at last, a launching point for what should be an exciting next volume in the projected trilogy. Final art unseen. anita l. burkam

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