Max is a kitten. Kittens chase birds. Like Bird. Max wants to chase bird, but he also wants to be his friend. The pair learn the true meaning of friendship as they help each other, and come to a mutually agreeable deal about the whole chasing thing …
Is it possible to be minimalist and use a riot of colour? Ask Ed Vere. In Max and Bird, he brings the two things together with aplomb. The pages feature two or three colours each, sometimes in a range of shades. The two characters, Max and Bird, and mainly made up of black. This makes it easy to focus on them in their colourful world. Simple lines are used to depict movement. This reminded me of lines children themselves draw, a fact communicated without the need for words.
I love the central message of the story: never mind the rules of the game, or what you thought you were going to do. What matters most is being a good friend. Good friends think before they act. Max the kitten claims he is supposed to eat bird, but all the way along he behaves like a friend. He listens to bird’s feelings, and the pair agree a deal. If Max will help bird fly, they will discuss the chasing. When bird takes flight for the first time and leaves Max on the ground, Max is as excited as bird. They celebrate a shared victory in a riot of colour.
The language is simple. One basic statement leads to another. What prevents this from being boring for adults is how the statements build into one another. ‘Max is a kitten’ and ‘kittens eat birds’. The humour comes in the fact that, in stating the obvious, Ed Vere shows us which direction the story is going, and tells us what we ought to have known all along. Kittens eat birds. Fact. There is also detail in the illustration to keep adults interested. The books on flying, for instance, have titles from ‘basic flying’ to ‘Amelia Earhart’. The detail opens discussion possibilities beyond the core theme of friendship … and the brutal fact that, as any young cat lover will find out, it is in a cat’s nature to kill birds.
UK: Puffin Books
USA: Due from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, September 2017
Note: I read this courtesy of Netgalley and Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. This does not affect the honesty of my review.