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  • Karen Provensen Mitchell

The Truth About Max (2023)

Updated: Jan 4

A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2023!

Fans of the late Caldecott-winning couple’s work will be delighted to encounter this never-before-published gem of a story about a rambunctious tabby cat named Max. A kind of sidebar to Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm, in which Max appears, it’s told in a similar style, via an informal narrative that builds on thin-lined ink drawings lightly washed in watercolor. Though Max’s youth involves no littermates, vignettes of the kitten tussling with a bag of sugar, a spool of red ribbon, and crockery accompany text that indicates “he was/ as much/ trouble// as/ ten/ kittens./ And he was always hungry.” Distinctive, curlicue hand-lettering on cream-colored pages enhances the story’s sketchbook feel as the creators follow Max’s maturation into a “terrible tease” of other animals, a “mighty hunter” (“Max has his own room and bed.// It is full of squirrel tails”), and a being with “an important tail” that reveals his mood. After examining Max’s relationships with the farm’s other animals and its pale-skinned human inhabitants, the story ends with a glimpse of Max taking off solo into a lonely, moonlit night where “his real life begins”—an acknowledgment that even closely observed creatures have their own secrets. A letter to readers from the Provensens’ daughter concludes.

-from Publishers Weekly

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