A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
Way back in 2011, I reviewed a book here called Mr Big, written and illustrated by the very talented Ed Vere. It had delighted – and still delights – my eldest daughter with its heartfelt story and striking illustrations of a friendless gorilla. Fast forward four years and I have a second daughter, who is equally enchanted with Ed Vere’s latest book, Max at Night, which she refers to as ‘Max Moon,’ since she is still very little indeed and happy to choose her own names for things.
My daughter brings this book to me approximately ten times a day and pleads for me to read it to her. I settle her on my lap, we turn the pages together, and she expresses increasing excitement until two-thirds of the way in, whereupon we turn the page to reveal what we have been searching for . . .
‘MOON!’ she exclaims, kicking her legs and laughing in sheer joy. Never have I seen a book have such a strong effect on a child, not even on YouTube. This joy erupts from her in squeals and giggles, followed by wide-eyed wonder and for a few minutes she appears completely blissed out. And then we read it again.
Onto the plot. Max the kitten, our plucky protagonist, is going about his nightly routine of wishing goodnight the things that matter to him. He has just wished the moon goodnight when he realises it is not there. Oh dear, where could it be? Curious and intrepid soul that he is, Max leaves his house on a quest to find it. He climbs over a sleeping dog and up the tallest tree. He scales a building and a mountain, but still he cannot find the moon to wish it goodnight. Eventually, with assistance from the mountain wind, he discovers the lost moon and the moon informs him, very kindly, that it could hear Max all along.
It’s a simple enough story, albeit one that is utterly charming in its simplicity and complemented by suitably quirky and beautiful illustrations, but what IS it about this particular book that evokes such a strong reaction in my toddler? I think part of the appeal is the build-up, the delayed gratification, the fact that we know we will see the moon, but we have to overcome a few hurdles first. We have to do the work to get there.
As a side note, I hadn’t realised that Max at Night is a sequel to the bestselling Max the Brave, which I shall be purchasing this week for a certain toddler.
*Christmas klaxon* If you happen to have a small child to buy for this Christmas, or indeed an older child with an enduring interest in picture books (or adult collector – I’m looking at you, Bookfox Hilary) Max at Night comes very highly recommended.