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Max's Words Hardcover – August 8, 2006
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From School Library Journal
Starred Review. PreSchool-Grade 2–Maxs two older brothers are serious collectors: Benjamin saves stamps and Karl keeps coins. The youngest boy decides to accumulate words. He carefully selects them from newspapers and magazines, cutting out and sorting them by category: colors, foods, small ones, big ones. He copies entries from the dictionary onto pieces of paper and adds them to his mounting collection. It doesnt matter if coins or stamps are moved around, but words can be arranged and rearranged to create stories. Even though his siblings wont share pieces of their collections, Max gives away words and the three boys devise a short story together. Imaginative, softly colored illustrations reveal the gathered words scattered all over the pages. They are fine examples of concrete poetry: HUNGRY has a chunk bitten out of it; ALLIGATOR has teeth and an eye peering from the R; BASEBALL is printed in the shape of a bat. The text is set in a variety of styles and sometimes curves around the piles of Maxs collection. This tale pays homage to the written word and may get children thinking about cutting and pasting their own stories or creating concrete poetry.–Maryann H. Owen, Racine Public Library, WI
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Max's brother Benjamin collects stamps; his brother Karl collect coins. Max wants to collect something too; he decides to collect words. He begins with small, familiar ones--ate, who, big--which he cuts out of magazines and newspapers. Then he finds longer ones--alligator, baseball. He collects words of things he likes to eat, words that describe colors, and strange words that he finds in the dictionary. When his collection grows too big for his desk, he spreads his words on the floor. Lured by the creative power of words, his brothers rearrange, change, and move the words to create a story, which is visualized in Kulikov's artwork. Kulikov's signature style, which incorporates exaggerated expressions, unusual perspectives, and big-eyed characters, is a perfect match for Banks' clever tale. Kids are naturally inclined to collect things, and the idea of accumulating something intangible in this delightful homage to storytelling will intrigue them. In a word: captivating. Julie Cummins
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
So I am quite surprised to report that I haven't read a book in a long time where the kids were so totally sucked into the story as they were with this one. They were with me every second, right to the last page and they loved it. It's not high drama or even very much of a plot, but my kids seemed to be totally captured by the idea of cutting out words as a collection. Then when Max started putting his words together to make a story, they were honestly on the edge of their seats waiting to see what would happen. Surprised me, for sure.
I didn't try it below 2nd grade and all my students needed some discussion beforehand about what a collection is and how people collect stamps & coins. But once they were grounded in the concept, the book managed to engage all my students, even the somewhat jaded 5th & 6th graders.
Instructionally this book could be useful in a number of ways and combined with the fact that the kids love it, I have a feeling this book is going to become one of those classic media center mainstays.
"I've got a thousand stamps," said Benjamin.
"When I get a few more coins, I'll have nearly five hundred," said Karl.
"And when I have a few more words, I'll have a story," said Max.
You go, Max! But dontcha know that once his brothers catch wind of it, they try to elbow him aside and take over.
Big brothers, who needs 'em. I have three myself, and I even inherited the stamp and coin collections after they were no longer cool. So I know what I'm talking about. That Max is out there snipping syllables for the rest of us.
And what's with these Russian illustrators? They're starting to make the homegrown variety look bad. Sure, Kulikov lives in Brooklyn, but you know what they say. You can take the boy out of the Hermitage but you can't take all that Eastern iconography out of the boy.
Max radiates. Max looms. Max is the only one in a comfy sweater instead of a stuffy suit, so you know he's cool.
And Max seems to bend the picture plane so all points lead to Max, even when he's pushed to one side.
A keeper, this one. You mark my words -- and Max's.
Banks and the very talented illustrator, Boris Kulikov, begin with three boys: Karl the coin collector, Benjamin the stamp collector, and Max--who can't think of anything to collect. To make matters worse, Ben and Karl refuse to share their collections with Max.
Suddenly, and to the derision of his two friends, Max decides to collect words. Max proceeds slowly but diligently, never reading words bigger than he can digest. With a little confidence, Max moves on to bigger and bigger words, and then to words he doesn't even know! As he embellishes his vocabulary, Kulikov throws in some clever visual puns; the shape and form of the written words reflect their meanings: The word "Baseball" is in the shape of a bat, the "O" in the word "dogs" is a collar, "hungry" is written on paper that has a big bite. "Alligator" and "crocodile" are long words with spikey teeth along their edges, together they form the upper and lower jaws of something one might call a "crocogator."
Through Max's testing of words and word order, Banks and Kulikov also explore the power of syntax: Word order can make a big difference! Max discovers (and we share this through the pictures), that "A Blue Crocodile Ate the Green Iguana," has a different meaning than "The Blue Iguana Ate the Green Crocodile," a difference particularly significant to the iguana and the Croc!
As the book progresses, the increasing energy and scope of the words' power seems inspired by a combination of the old Monsanto "Shrinking Person" ride at Disneyland, the runaway power of "The Sorcerer's Apprenctice," and the dream-becomes-nightmare of "Alice in Wonderland." Max (a playful, curious and therefore fast learner) discovers that with enough words he can write a story.
As Karl and Benjamin discover that the word can be mightier than the sword, they try to ruin Max's story about a young worm with their own animated words. "Karl scrambled for more words. He wanted the crocodle to eat the worn." Fortunately, Max is quicker--he and the worm narrowly escape through a hole, signifying Max's newly won confidence and self-acceptance.
This is a wonderful, well-illustrated, book about how we learn reading, and the power of words combined with a good imagination.