Art & Max by David Wiesner

71578246Lynn: Is it really possible to be too good for your own good?  Several conversations with colleagues about David Wiesner’s new book have me wondering.  I’ve been hearing variations of this statement, “He’s already won so many awards – someone else should have a turn.”  Hmmm – while I agree there are many wonderful illustrators working these days, I wasn’t aware there was a term limit on trips to the podium 😉 Now, our focus group and I have no reservations – we LOVE this book.  We’ve been looking forward to it since seeing a preview and when THE package arrived from the publisher we read the book right where we opened it!

For those of you who have been exploring Mars and not seen Art & Max, this is the story of two friends who just happen to be lizards.  Art is a painter and Max is an enthusiast who decides he can paint too.  Max’s approach is unconventional to say the least.  After a perfectly natural but disastrous mistake, Max attempts to fix his error and makes it worse, deconstructing Art before our eyes.  Not to worry, Max recreates Art and he is even better than before.  This is just the bones of the story of course as Wiesner is exploring so much including various artistic media, creativity, the impact of critical acclaim on the creative process, friendship, and the courage to embrace change.  Wiesner’s visual storytelling is astonishing, beautifully designed, richly detailed and full of kid-centered humor.  Wiesner is doing a lot here and I’m sure – as art-challenged as I am – that I am missing a lot but there is so much to enjoy at so many levels that the reading experience is extraordinary for all who come to the book.  This book has been an immediate favorite with our focus group.  It is one they chose frequently for us to read together and one they pull out just as often to spend independent time with and they are the ones who noticed that the cactus on the last page matched Max’s blast of paint.

Hey – I like the idea of sharing the wealth but awards for the best should go to the best and I know the committee choices will reflect that.

Cindy: I really am a fan of picture books with minimal text. While this one is not wordless like last year’s Lion and Mouse, it relies on the illustration more than the sparse dialog and invites the reader to participate fully in the storytelling.  In addition, encouragement to participate in the arts and to not be afraid of making “mistakes” is a favorite theme of mine and is represented well here. No one should allow their creativity to be suppressed, regardless of their talent or lack thereof. I love that our focus group jumped right into this book standing where they opened the package–their unbridled enthusiasm echoes that of Max….who is too eager to wait for art instruction….by the end of this book you’ll be looking for places to fling bright colored paint. I’m reminded of the video of Eric Carle splattering paint on his tissue papers in order to make his fabulous collages. I wonder what is harder for Wiesner, creating another exemplary picture book or writing another Caldecott acceptance speech? Either way, my hat’s off to him.



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

2 Comments on "Art & Max by David Wiesner"

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  1. Thanks for your post. I just bought Art and Max for my son for Xmas. I paged through Lion and Mouse — such gorgeous illustrations; truly breathtaking.

    I think I must get that one as well!

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