Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Parents' Choice Awards : Books : Picture Books
Max's Words

Max's Words

Fall 2006 Picture Books
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
Author: Kate Banks
Illustrator: Boris Kulikov
ISBN: 0-374-39949-2
Hardcover Price: $16.00
This homage to the writing life gives new meaning to the educational precept known as “language acquisition.” Max's brother Benjamin collects stamps; his other brother, Karl, collects coins; and Max wants a collection of his own. In a sly dig at reviewers and reviewing, he cuts up a publication that looks—suspiciously—like the New York Times Book Review and collects piles of words in a potpourri of fonts. Words, of course, lead to story...and pretty soon all three brothers are happily engaged in creating a tale about a brown worm, a green snake and a mean crocodile. Just when it looks like creativity may run amok, authorial direction takes over, the worm escapes, and Max is rewarded with stamps and coins from his siblings who—in exchange—gleefully bear off handfuls of words to begin a story about a big brown dog. Kulikov's choice of an overhead perspective (we frequently peer at the top of the slicked-down heads of the two brothers as well as Max's haystack mop) is effective, and the observer's gradual descent to eye level as Max masters his craft...only to sail off into the stratosphere again as imagination takes over lends a pleasing rhythm to the book's slightly off-kilter illustrations. Teachers will find ample classroom activities to build around a text that playfully examines the process—and the pleasure—of both wordsmanship and reading.
Kristi Elle Jemtegaard   ©2006 Parents' Choice
Kristi Elle Jemtegaard is the Coordinator of Youth Services for the Arlington Public Library system. She has taught courses on children’s and young adult literature at the Catholic University of America and the University of Virginia. She has served on both the Newbery and Caldecott Award Committees of the American Library Association and has chaired the Notable Children’s Recordings Committee and the May Hill Arbuthnot Award Committee. She is a member and past president of the Children’s Book Guild of Washington DC and has chaired the Washington Post–Book Guild Nonfiction Award Committee. She is a founding member of Capitol Choices, an organization of professionals in the field of children’s literature in the greater Washington DC area. She regularly reviews children’s literature and audio productions for a variety of national publications.

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