Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Maxwell's Mountain

Maxwell's Mountain
by Shari Becker
Illustrated by Nicole Wong
Published by Charlesbridge

Ages : 6-9

Maxwell's Mountain is a story about a boy with tons of imagination, plenty of pluck and a healthy appetite for adventure. Maxwell sits atop a slide, the highest perching point in the local park, to look out at the scenes around him. A swing set on the left - typical. A sandbox on the right - predictable. A seesaw, directly ahead - common. And then he looks behind. And sees it. Tall. Awesome. Glorious. Big. A mountain. The perfect lookout. And it calls out to Maxwell.

But just as he gets on his feet to begin his quest, his Mom stops him, saying...that hill is where the big kids play.

That's no hill. It's a mighty mountain....thinks Maxwell. And this is exactly what characterizes him throughout the book. A hill is not just a hill. It is a mountain. Big, tall, glorious, awesome. And by that same token, he is most certainly a big kid, is he not? :)

When he asks for permission back at home, he is not told 'no'. Instead, his Dad tells him...To tackle a mountain, you've got to be a great outdoorsman.

And in the face of this response, Maxwell doesn't lose heart. Instead, he throws his hands up in the air and exclaims that he will be a great outdoorsman!

And that's exactly what he sets out to do! He brings home a great many books from the library on the subject, pores over them and makes a list of all the things that he needs to do, right from training everyday by running up and down the stairs 4 times, to getting together the necessary gear such as flashlight, a raincoat and a red backpack to hold everything in; to first aid supplies, water and snacks, to making a map to chart his course up that mountain. All the signs of a great outdoorsman, who knows that he must be prepared for any and every event.

Finally, the big day arrives and Maxwell sets off with these last parting words from his mother...If he gets into trouble, a true outdoorsman uses his head.

Hmm. So does that mean Maxwell's missions has its share of boulders to block the way? It certainly does, and a story would not be complete without them, and moreover, no mountain is complete without them. :)

The best part of this book is how it looks lovingly at the imaginative mind of a young boy, and how in his world, anything is possible. And everything is larger than life. Quite literally! His imagination is also gently explored through the presence of Harry, his little toy soldier with the red beret, throughout this adventure.

Nicole Wong's illustration is very potent and efficient in the way it aids the story in building up to Maxwell's capacity for imagination. Done in pen and ink, and watercolors, the mountain that looks like a hill when his mother sees it, looms up large and striking in Maxwell's own horizon. The stairs of the house in which he trains, suddenly seems to go on endlessly, becoming the best training ground for Maxwell's trial runs. At home, even the food on Maxwell's plate become little mounds by themselves. At the library, the books are all stacked precariously one on top of the other, showing the extent of Maxwell's determination to succeed. Little Harry is shown in almost every page, either perched inside Harry's pocket, or bounding up the stairs in front of him, or standing next to him surveying all the things that will go into the backpack.

At the end,  Maxwell does get to the top, and what a lookout it is!!! There's the playground a.......ll the way down, and his mom and dad waving to him, and the skyscrapers from the city, and he takes it all in, with a slow deep breath. And when he opens his eyes....he sees IT. Awesome. Glorious. Big. An ocean at the other end of town.

And we know that the seeds for the sequel to this adventure, have just been sown! And if we're lucky, we may even get to read all about it in the next book, won't we? :)

[Pic Courtesy of : Comfibook.com]


sathish said...

wow. this book reminds me of what sooraj keeps saying things like - 'u know what - I climbed up for four floors in 20 seconds. I am the best!'; 'I can even race usain bolt' and so on..
Their confidence is highly contagious!

Artnavy said...

I so need to get this for Anush- she is always claiming that she can climb hills not just hillocks!

Especially while seeing those in her grandparents place- Chintamani

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