Friday, October 18, 2019

The Book of Lost Things

The Book of Lost Things
by Cynthia Voigt
Recommended Ages: 10+

Max Starling's parents, a couple of flamboyant actors, are so overjoyed to be invited by a certain Maharajah of Kashmir to establish a royal theater in his country, they almost forget to take their son along. Then something mysterious happens and Max gets left behind after all – left to wonder what became of them, since no ship answering the name on their tickets actually docked at the harbor. So, Max is left at home to fend for himself, with a little help from his librarian Grammie who lives next door.

Keen to maintain his independence, Max adopts a variety of disguises based on characters from his parents' stage repertoire and begins a career for which, at first, he can't think of a name. Eventually he settles on "solutioneer," using his talent for going unnoticed and a gift for solving other people's problems to make just enough money to get by. Meanwhile, he and Grammie keep an eye out for news of the ships that departed the town's harbor that day. They try to figure out why a group of suspicious characters with long earlobes are interested in seeing the inside of Max's house. Max takes on a lodger, an unwanted assistant, and a role in some three-act dramas in the theater of life – the Lost Dog and the Lost Spoon, to name a few. He wrestles with ethical issues, an artistic crisis, a family misunderstanding and a romantic dilemma. And from time to time, he receives cryptic messages from his folks. What on earth could they be up to?

This is a smart, charming story featuring a most resourceful young hero. It is fun to appreciate, all at the same time, Max's offbeat talents, his strong personality, and the unusual structure his story takes on, at least in his mind. His independence, for his age, is evidently a product of his upbringing in a theater company. His life is definitely unlike that of most readers in his age group, which makes this adventure like a visit to a remarkable fantasy world. Yet at the same time, he deals with real issues with honesty and sincere concern that may stir serious reflections in those readers' hearts and minds.

This "book of lost things," not to be confused with a book of the same name by John Connolly, is the first installment of the Mister Max trilogy, which continues in The Book of Secrets and The Book of Kings. Cynthia Voigt is also the Newbery Medal-winning author of the Tillerman Cycle (Dicey's Song and six others), six Tales of the Kingdom books (Jackaroo etc.), six Bad Girls books, The Callender Papers, and about a dozen other young adult novels with such titles as Tell Me If the Lovers Are Losers; Izzy, Willy-Nilly; The Vandemark Mummy; Tree by Leaf; Glass Mountain; and When She Hollers.

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