Saturday, July 14, 2012

Max by Bob Graham

Max by Bob Graham

Rating: 5 stars

It's official: I'm a mom of a boy.  Well, two, but Kiefer is just beginning to show his opinions on matters, and they generally revolve around wanting to get out of my arms when I want him in them.  He is manageable, as of today.

But judging from the increased number of superhero and action figure books that are lying around, it's clear...boys are in this house.  I'm not sure how this interest (not yet obsession) came about, but I really believe it was an only a matter of time.  Boys need heroes, more than girls, I think.  If I say Joseph Campbell's The Hero of A Thousand Faces, does anyone know what I'm talking about? this is not yet an interactive blog, I will continue.  Campbell wrote this stellar work on mythology,  showing the similarity of myths from all over the world about the path a hero takes.  In short: 
A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.
Star Wars is based on this--think of Luke realizing that he does have the power to have the force, and then he goes out to do good, and battle evil.  He wins and saves the planet.  It's been a few years since I've seen all the movies, so forgive me if I'm paraphrasing such a great trilogy of movies (note that I'm not including the new ones).

Anyway, I believe boys especially respond to this idea that an ordinary kid--usually male--suddenly finds within himself extraordinary powers.  He suddenly has a responsibility to do something with these powers--hopefully he'll choose to do some good.  With good parenting, this should be a clear choice for any super-power-filled tyke, right?

Ben looks through Superman and Spiderman books at the library and bookstore, and occasionally these find their way back in his room and on our crowded bookshelves.  But these books are too old for him, and I wish that he wouldn't want me to read them to him.  Though good always wins, they are violent and full of mean, vicious faces.  I'd like to keep my kids in a sweet bubble for as long as possible.

For that reason, I really love Max.  Max is a little boy who comes from a long line of superheroes.  His father, mother, grandparents, siblings all walk around in their superhero capes and costumes, at the ready just in case thieves need to be caught, crooks need to be chased, or bullies need to be stopped.  Max is happy, but can't participate in his family's superhero-ness because he can't fly.  And flying, clearly, is something integral to all superheroes' lives.  His family is confused but patient; they help him and urge him and encourage him, but to no avail.

Then one day, Max looks outside his window and sensed that a baby bird, one too young to fly, just fell from his nest.  Max skipped down the stairs and out the front door as quickly as he could, and then FLEW up to rescue the baby bird, as he fell to the ground.  His parents were overjoyed and hugged him tight.

What kind of superhero will Max be?  A series of pictures shows us: Max shooing a butterfly away from a candle, Max stopping traffic so ducks can cross the street, Max rescuing a bug from the tub, Max grabbing a rabbit from a creeping fox's path.  He's "a small hero, a small hero doing quiet deeds.  The world needs more of those."

It sure does.  I'd rather my boys (and girl) be small heroes, a more realistic type of hero.  Instead of images of bad guys fighting with their fists and thunderbolts, I'd prefer them think of Max, lending a hand to someone or something that needs him.


  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you for reviewing a super hero book sans violence. My little guy also wants to be a superhero... but the options out there are limited for those of us who eschew the scary and violent. I have ordered this book, and I'm sure my son will love it.

    1. I'm so glad this is a new book for you! And, inspired by your comment, I've just ordered about a dozen other (decent, non-violent) superhero books from the library. Look for reviews of them in the next few weeks...