This post is participating in #KidBookBingo organised and hosted by @AnnalieseAvery on Twitter. Every day there is an opportunity to post a review of the book of the day.
This gorgeous little illustrated mystery story is a love letter to the Theatre and kindness and is a great story to encourage young readers who love a good mystery but are looking for something more challenging than early readers but not quite as demanding as middle grade.
Maximilian has spent a pampered sheltered life on the plump velvet cushion of Arlington Grove tied up with a bow and waited on hand and foot. This is why it is most confusing and displeasing to him when he finds himself in a cat basket with the young maid saying she won’t really dump him in the Thames.
Searching for his mistress he comes across the Theatre Royal and a kindly street cat called Oscar and he sets to work being useful.
One day a famous opera star appears to sing in a production but all is not as it seems and it appears that only Max has the inside knowledge because what harm can a cat do? So Max must save the Theatre and solve the mystery!!
When his work was done he would climb up to the highest corner of the gallery that hung above the stage. From there, the best seat in the house, he would watch mesmerised as the show unfolded and the tapestry of music wove it’s spell, soaring into the air…
Max is just such a gorgeous little read, Littlefae is inspired by mystery stories especially those that are genuinely well written with clues speckled throughout, but is accessible for that inbetweeny stage both in plot and book design with a larger font and illustrations, and an animal protagonist is a great choice for this age group too.
However Max is extra special because he is existing within a human world, this is a great thing for children’s literature because like children can often feel adults don’t pay them full attention, yet that as they are children they don’t always fully understand the context and can miss or not get what’s going on, this can equally be extrapolated to animals like our protagonist cat.
It may be a children’s book standard to write books with animal protagonist but it is actually a powerful and plot driven choice by casting our hero as a cat as it offers the innocence and confusion without patronising children who despite not getting nuances and context are often far more observant and understanding than we give them credit for. So Max’s naivety and gentle stumbling and working through his discoveries are naturalistic but also allow the engaged child reader to feel clever and ahead of the plot and so encourage Max on saying ‘think about this Max!!’
This is genuinely a tightly and effectively written story with heartbreak and peril and Max rising to the challenge, it’s a lovely metaphor for not allowing circumstances to dictate your behaviour nor your future. Max could have continued to be a spoilt cat, and he could have let his change in circumstances destroy him but he adapts and challenges himself constantly whether it’s to learn knots or to jump across rooftops, there’s little but powerful lessons that children can learn from this pampered pet.
We will be continuing our adventures with Max and his friends!
Max The Detective Cat by Sarah Todd- Taylor is published by Nosy Crow and available online and from bookstores.