Art & Max


Written and Illustrated by David Wiesner

Clarion Books, 2010

Awards:  Caldecott Medal, 2011

Careful, Max!

Hey, Art, that’s great!

The plot in a nutshell:  Two lizard friends share an artistic afternoon in the desert

There are several David Wiesner books on my ‘must review’ list.  This was the first one I read and my initial thought was that picture books were never this gorgeous when I was a kid.  I can’t help thinking that the unenlightened out there must look at a book like this, scoff and say that Mr. Wiesner is ‘wasting himself’ on children’s books.  But there’s so much to take in within these pictures, as in all of his books, and nothing at all is wasted here.

Arthur is a horned lizard who paints portraits.  Max is a wannabe artist who joins him for some painting, but isn’t sure what he wants to paint.  When Arthur suggests that Max paint him, Max takes it literally and begins covering Arthur with paint.  As the story moves forward, we get to see the mediums of watercolor, pastel, ink line drawings and even wire sculpture being used to change Arthur from the drab gray colors he wore at the start of the book to the incredible new look he wears at the end.  And we see that this experience has broadened his own artistic style.

Looks like Art is channeling Jackson Pollock and Max is doing his best Van Gogh.

Looks like Art is channeling Jackson Pollock and Max is doing his best Van Gogh.

Beyond just stunning, there are lots of fun little details hidden in these pictures.  Kids will enjoy reading through the book, just focusing on the antics of the smaller lizards that are hanging out and watching the story unfold.  Observant adults will note that Arthur is an old school rock fan, since the albums near his Victrola include Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother and The Who’s Tommy.  And when Max shows up with a fan and a vacuum, the Acme brand on the side is instantly recognizable to anyone who grew up with Warner Brothers cartoons.

Mr. Wiesner is one of only two artists who have won three Caldecott Medals.  This book is the most recent and only whets my appetite for all the books still to come.

And what did we learn?  What I take away from this book is that being open to new ideas can change the way you see the world…and the way the world sees you.


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