Friday, June 14, 2013

Picturebook Review: Art & Max by David Wiesner

Art & Max
by David Wiesner
Clarion Books, 2010
Illustrations in acrylic pastel, watercolor, and India ink.

Goodreads Description:

Max and Arthur are friends who share an interest in painting. Arthur is an accomplished painter; Maxi is a beginner. Max's first attempt at using a paintbrush sends the two friends on a whirlwind trip through various artistic media, which turn out to have unexpected pitfalls. Although Max in inexperienced  he's courageous - and a quick learner. His energy and enthusiasm bring the adventure to its triumphant conclusion. Beginners everywhere will take heart. 

My Review:
Wiesner never disappoints me. He's wonderful at exploring new forms and challenging boundaries. And this book is no different. 
The story is a cute one. Art and Max remind me of siblings, the initially unwilling leader (Art) is overwhelmed by the young energy of his new follower (Max). Max is convinced that he can paint too, which Art only sourly agrees to let him try. Max's energy leads to many unconventional paint forms - mostly at Art's expense. And while he seems to be a little ball of chaos, it turns out that Max has one talent that Art may not, which he proves to very worried Art (read the book, and you'll understand his worry!) The story is cute and remains very simple. The text is very brief and entirely dialogue between Art and Max. Much of the deeper interpretation is left to the reader. Don't worry though, the message is clear. 

The book explores many different art forms that could be discussed with readers, but the book does not simply explore different art forms - it explores boundaries and tests conventions. The relationship between Art and Max, though undefined at the start of the novel, suggests that the two have bonded through their artistic adventure. In fact, at the conclusion, the two seem to have earned many insights about the other; though this, of course, is only implied. This book makes art look fun (but when do kids not think art is fun). It's more than that too. It's about discovery - and not just discovering new ways to draw and color.

The illustrations are amazing. From the book cover to the last page, I loved all of the artwork. Very soft backgrounds brought a lot of the focus to the foreground, filled with vibrant, moving colors. The detail is great as well! I could probably go on for a while about the illustrations, but I want to bring attention to the jacket cover and the actual book cover. You'll have to buy the book to see it, but the jacket cover (pictured above) is a delightful work that captures much of the plot expectations and emotions. However, beneath the sleeve is the hard cover is a splatter-work of paint drops and large swoops, all in colors of bright red, orange, yellow, and grey. It's fun, inviting, and it proves that the book itself is a work of art. It's a very clever paratext in my opinion; hidden beneath the initial image is the beautiful chaos that Max truly represents. 

I'm going to give this book a four out of five foxes. It's a fun book and begs to be read aloud!

1 comment:

  1. I love this book! We give Art & Max to every three-year-old we know (usually with an art supply set) for their birthday.


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