Friday, December 10, 2010

25. Wiesner's New Marvel

Art & Max, written & illustrated by David Wiesner, Clarion, $17.99, ages 4-8, 40 pages. An impetuous young lizard splashes paint on another artist after he misunderstands what it means to paint someone else, then scrambles to try to clean him up with wondrous results.  One day, the young lizard, named Max, races into the artist space of a big, imposing lizard named Arthur in the middle of the desert and begs to paint too. At first Arthur dismisses Max's request, but when he sees how downtrodden Max has become, he reluctantly agrees to let him join in. The only problem is, Max has no idea what to paint, so he asks Arthur for help. "Art," as Max calls him, suggests that Max paint him. But Max, being the hasty fellow he is, takes him literally. Before Arthur can yell, "preposterous," Max has coated him in paint. The once-tan lizard is now blue with yellow and orange splotches and is so outraged that he can barely speak.

Max, meanwhile, is so lost in what he's doing that he has no idea that Art is mad and asks him to turn around so he can paint a spot he's missed. At that point Art is beside himself and explodes with rage. He shakes his body so fiercely that paint sprays off him into pebbles of color on the ground, though the basic colors remain on his skin. Now Art's body paint looks as soft as chalk and you can no longer make out his scales. "…What have you done?" he rages at Max, who's too busy blowing paint powder from Arthur's hand to realize how cross he is. Suddenly, an idea flashes into Max's head and he runs off to fetch a giant fan, ostensibly on a very long extension cord. As Max turns on the fan full blast, the force of the air takes off enough color to turn Art pastel. But now Art is so parched he needs water. In a flash, Max dashes off to get it but as Art drinks one glass after another, something incredible happens. All of the color on his body washes off into a puddle beneath him. Now, instead of returning to tan, scaly skin, Art is an ink outline. Exasperated, Arthur starts trudging off the page, and Max, desperate to make amends, grabs onto his tail. Before Max knows what he's done, he's unraveled Art, who is now a tangled outline on the ground. How will Max ever make up for this? Perhaps Max has something to draw after all. Caldecott Award-winner Wiesner once again creates a masterpiece that, like art displayed in a show, will be marveled over and discussed for reading times to come.

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