Maxine by Bob Graham

cover image

Bob Graham’s distinctive illustrative style soars across the front cover, ensuring every child who sees the book will recognise it, pick it up, read it themselves or ask someone to read it to them. Older readers and adults will remember the wonderful story of Max (2002), and delight in picking up this new incarnation. My kids (now in their 40’s) could spot a Bob Graham from the bookshop doorway and pestered the bookshop owners for any new Graham books.

Max is told that his superhero mum is pregnant and goes along to see the scan. Questions are asked, answers given about the new addition to the family, one they know already has a mask. But what will she be like? Grandma knits her a cape, Grandpa makes her some soft leather boots, and Max gives her his most believed book. They are proud of her and her achievements, wondering when she will be able to fly. But Maxine questions her costume and the mask, wanting to be more like her peers at school, thinking about what she wants to be. She asks others about their ambitions and what they want to be and gets a variety of responses, she ask her family what they aimed for and hears that they all were happiest being a superhero. But Maxine is not so sure. She convinces her mother to buy her jeans and a t-shirt, her old clothes going to the fete, she finds the boy in the school dress up parade needing one more thing to make his costume complete. She gives him her mask.

And without the mask, she is Maxine, a person who can do exactly what she wants to do.

A loving look at a family, happily welcoming a new child into their midst, expecting her to follow in their footsteps, but being equally at one when she decides to take her own path. 

And as with all of his books there are small nods to other themes lurking in the background: peer pressure, grandparents, expectations, career paths, while the illustrations beg for closer inspection, especially the Bruegel like playground at school with its myriad of individual children all doing something quite unique.

And that to me says it all: each child is their own person and should be encouraged to find their own voice in the world, like a person in a Bruegel painting: each is quite different, one from the other. Classroom ideas are available.

Themes: Superheroes, Family, Relationships, Pregnancy, Ambition, Self image.

Fran Knight