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Art & Max

Last updated Friday, February 17, 2012

Author: David Wiesner
Illustrator: David Wiesner
Date of Publication: 2010
ISBN: 0618756639
Grade Level: Kindergarten    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Nov. 2011

Synopsis: From School Library Journal:
Underlying this tale of a feisty friendship between two lizards is a thought-provoking exploration of the creative process. Readers first encounter Arthur rendering a formal portrait of a stately reptile, one of several reacting to the unfolding drama in the desert. Frenetic Max dashes into the scene; he also wants to paint, but lacks ideas. Self-assured Art suggests, "Well…you could paint me." Max's literal response yields a more colorful Art, but the master's outrage causes his acrylic armor to shatter. His texture falls in fragments, leaving an undercoating of dusty pastels vulnerable to passing breezes. Each of Max's attempts to solve Art's problems leads to unexpected outcomes, until his mentor is reduced to an inked outline, one that ultimately unravels. Wiesner deftly uses panels and full spreads to take Max from his "aha" moment through the humorous and uncertain moments of reconstructing Art. Differentiated fonts clarify who's speaking the snippets of dialogue. Wielding a vacuum cleaner that soaks up the ruined scales, Max sprays a colorful stream, à la Jackson Pollock, that lands, surprisingly, in a Pointillist manner on the amazed lizard. The conclusion reveals that his fresh look inspires the senior artist with new vision, too. Funny, clever, full of revelations to those who look carefully–this title represents picture-book making at its best. Wiesner's inventive story will generate conversations about media, style, and, of course, "What Is Art?" It will resonate with children who live in a world in which actions are deemed mistakes or marvels, depending on who's judging.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Do you like art?
•  What kind of art do you like to do? Do you like to paint? to draw?
•  Do you have art in your house?
•  What kind of art do you think Max will do in this book?

Vocabulary Words:
•  preposterous: absurd, not making sense
•  acceptable: pleasing, satisfactory; agreeable
•  fascinating: of great interest or attraction

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  If you were Max, what would you have painted?

Craft ideas:
•  Have the kids paint or draw whatever animal or scene they'd like. You could even have them draw their interpretation of what Max looks like.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don't have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!