Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things

Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things

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Knopf September 2013

“Abraham  Lincoln and Henry David Thoreau were both morally opposed to
slavery. However,  they responded very differently to the Fugitive Slave Act,
which required the  governments of non-slaveholding states to return runaway
slaves to their  owners.

“Thoreau  responded by continuing to help runaway slaves obtain their
freedom and refusing  to pay taxes to the state of Massachusetts, which was
compliant with the  Fugitive Slave Act. In paying taxes to a government that
enforces the Fugitive  Slave Act, Thoreau argued, citizens become morally
responsible for slavery.  Consequently, only through civil disobedience can
citizens remain free from the  stain of slavery.

“Thoreau  recognized that civil disobedience might have adverse
consequences: Individuals  risk imprisonment, financial ruin, and ridicule, and
widespread resistance to  the Fugitive Slave Act might lead to civil war. However,
Thoreau considered  compromising over slavery in order to avoid adverse
consequences selfish and  cowardly.  Furthermore, he argued  that if civil
disobedience leads to war, the blame does not lie with those who  refuse to allow
themselves to become agents of injustice. The blame instead lies  with
slave owners and their appeasers who have attempted to force innocent  American
citizens to assist them in oppressing innocent  people.

“Lincoln,  on the other hand, believed that citizens have an obligation to
obey existing  laws, even if they find them morally objectionable. Lincoln
himself promised to  enforce the Fugitive Slave Act during his first
inaugural address.  The idea that citizens can choose to  disobey particular laws,
Lincoln explained, undermines the sanctity of all  laws.  If abolitionists
claim the  right to disobey laws that they dislike, then other groups are
likely to claim a  similar right.  In particular, lynch  mobs might claim that
they have a right to hang African Americans who have been  accused of crimes
without a proper trial.”
--  from "Lincoln and Thoreau" by Nora Hanagan, The Kenan Institute for
Ethics at  Duke University. Retrieved from http://kenan.ethics.duke.edu/

So,  whose position, do you feel, made more sense?
"'What's  the truth about her?'
"'Her  owners hired me to find her when she disappeared from where she was
tied up,  outside the little girl's school,' he said.
"'Tied  up?  Why at a school?  Don't they know anything about  dogs?'
"'The  little girl likes to take her to school,' Max explained.  He didn't
want  to  go into the whole long story.  'She's not the only one.
It's--it's a kind of contest, I think, a way of showing off, like...like talking
about your marks on a test.'
"Joachim  thought about this and decided, 'You can't take her back to those
"'But  I accepted the job.'
"'You're  a detective now?  You have a license?'
"'And  I need the money, or I will need it.  They paid me  twenty-five.'
"'I'll  loan you money if I have to.  Even better, here's what I'll do,'
Joachim  offered, and for him, Max knew, it was a sacrifice.  'I'll give you
lessons  for nothing, and that's as good as putting coins in your pocket.
Pay me  back when you can.  If you ever can.'
"'But  the dog does belong to the girl.'
"'Only  legally.'
"'The  law is important,' Max said.  He thought but did not say -- not
ready to  argue this point with Joachim right then -- that just because a law
didn't  always seem fair to you personally, or wasn't working in your favor,
that didn't  mean law wasn't necessary.
"'What  about what's good for the dog?  The law doesn't protect the dog, so
we have  to.  Don't tell me you want to give Sunny back to her.'
"Max  stroked the golden head and agreed.  'Of course not.  But is it right
 not to?  Isn't that stealing?'
"'It's  right for the dog,' Joachim said.  'Sometimes you have to break one
law to  obey another, more important one.'"
It's  a major deal for me to open the mail and discover the first book  in
a new series by one of my long-time favorite authors, Cynthia Voigt.
In  fact, I just received a phone call this afternoon from a reading buddy
who, on  my recommendation, had recently begun reading the award-winning,
seven-book  Tillerman cycle, and has now finished the last book.   (She'll
next be sharing them with her eleven year-old  daughter.)
Speaking  of the Tillermans, once Max Starling's quirky, theatrical parents
mysteriously  disappear (the first lost things in this Book of Lost
Things), we discover  that there's a mighty cool grandmother in this series, too.

Here,  Grammie is a former schoolteacher and current City Librarian, and
she's a tough old lady with sharp wits, and a pretty good sense of how  to
support but not smother her grandson, Max.  He, Max,  this twelve year-old
turned "solutioneer," is going to need all the  help he can get in resolving
that moral doggie dilemma, as well as figuring  out what the heck happened to
his parents who were supposed to board a ship  that, it turns out, no one has
heard of.  In the meantime, Max is  keeping himself financed by finding
solutions to local problems --  more lost things -- that are all tied to one
another through intriguing  threads.  Being the son of thespians, he is
forever cracking me up with his  use of a multitude of costumes and his slipping
in and  out of a variety of dramatic roles that he's watched his parents play
 over the years.

This  story, the first in a trilogy, is, in turn, sweet, funny, mysterious,
and  thought-provoking.  Desiring a degree of independence, Max is
fortunate to  find positive ways to achieve it.  There is a really fun, twelve
year-old style, boy-girl friendship that develops between Max and  Pia. There is
real depth to the secondary characters we meet,  including Pia, Gabrielle,
Ari, Joachim, and the Baroness.

I  am thoroughly sucked into this tale and will be really pleased when, at
some point down the road, Book 2 suddenly appears on my  doorstep.

384 pages  978-0-307-97681-9  Ages 8-12

Recommended by:  Richie  Partington, MLIS, California USA
Richie's Picks _http://richiespicks.com_ (http://richiespicks.com/)


If your parents received a letter inviting them to set up an acting company in a far off land, would you hope to be included in the adventure?  Of course you would and so did Max when his parents opened the letter and excitedly began to plan their future.  Quickly they determine they will need to request a third ticket so their son can come along and then plans are made for Max to go on his own to his painting lesson and then to join them as they all go aboard the Flower of Kashmir.

But, sometimes plans go awry and this is one of those times.  Max pedals his bicycle to the harbor and searches for the ship and his parents but to no avail.  His parents have disappeared and according to the Harbormaster there is not now nor ever has been a ship named the Flower of Kashmir.

Max is alone. His father always said that the age of twelve was the point in life when a boy became independent.  But just how independent does Max want to be?  How can he support himself?

Max has his parents' little house and luckily next door he has his Grammie, a librarian, who will give him wonderful dinners and all the support she can offer with her small means.  The two of them determine that Max must find a job.  But what can a boy of twelve do to support himself?  

The universe can step in and change the course of a life in the most clever way and Max is about to be astonished at the doors that open for him and for others as he seeks his independence and searches the city for a way to earn food and enough money to pay for his schooling and his painting lessons.

A cast of characters will one by one appear on the stage of Max's predicament and will offer him friendship and opportunities to find solutions to the problems of others thereby taking his mind off his own troubles and teaching him that he can indeed stand on his own two feet.

Wonderful storytelling unfolds in this world where all paths lead back to each other.  While Max practices the art of creating solutions to problems, he and his Grammie look to uncover clues to explain where his parents have gone.  What ship did take them aboard? A series of letters arrive with clues hidden between the lines.

A delightful maze filled with satisfying solutions and delightful adventures.

367 pages   Ages  8-12   978-0307976819

Recommended by:  Barb, abookandahug.com

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