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Maxwell's Mountain

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Junior Library Guild Selection, Spring 2006

Charlotte Zolotow Honored Title, 2007

Maxwell is disappointed by the predictability of the new park, but then he sees the mountain: "It was awesome. It was glorious. It was big." Maxwell is inextricably drawn to climbing it, though Mom won't allow it. At dinner, Maxwell channels Close Encounters of the Third Kind as he builds a mountain of mashed potatoes. His parents tell him that one must be a great outdoorsman to achieve such an ascent. With resolve, Maxwell reads up, draws a map and packs supplies, first aid and food. Seeing Maxwell's eagerness, his parents finally consent. Tackling the mountain at last, Maxwell follows the yellow dots, apparently left by others, that mark a trail, while his parents wait below. At first it's easy, but gradually the climb becomes steeper and the pebbles graduate to boulders. Obstacles abound, but the final spread shows the splendid view of Maxwell's triumph. Wong's illustrations are elegant, accentuated by hues of mild greens, yellows and blues. This mini-adventure is an absorbing story of determination and a boy's growing independence.
-- Kirkus Reviews, December 2005

PreSchool-Grade 2–An adventurous boy investigates a new park in town and finds the usual slide, swing set, and sandbox but is excited to discover there is also a mountain to climb. After Maxwell states his intent to conquer the rock-covered hill, his father explains that he must first become a great outdoorsman. Following a trip to the library, the resourceful child reads and makes a list of what he must do to get ready for his climb. The big day finally arrives and Maxwell, his parents, and his trusty toy soldier arrive at the park. The young explorer, who appears to be about seven or eight, follows the yellow dots marking the trail, which begins on a gravel path and gradually moves upward into boulders. When Maxwell temporarily loses his way, he backtracks, finds the trail again, and successfully reaches the summit. Watercolor-and-ink illustrations, mainly in tan, yellow, and green, reveal a hill that appears larger in each successive picture. The child's parents are shown standing at the base of the hill, keeping a vigilant eye on their intrepid son. A final picture reveals a triumphant Maxwell sitting on an outcropping high above the rooftops: this will thrill children while making parents a bit queasy. The toy soldier that mimics the boys every move adds a bit of whimsy to the tale. A good, solid story about making the necessary preparations for attempting to reach a goal and then achieving success.
–School Library Journal

Gr. 2-4. Spotting a large, tempting hill behind the playground near his new house, Maxwell employs systematic preparation to dispel his parents' conviction that he's too little to tackle the hill. After training on the stairs, gathering first-aid and food supplies, mapping his course, and listening to parental advice ("if he gets into trouble, a true outdoorsman uses his head"), Maxwell takes on the rocky slope--accompanied by an intrepid-looking toy soldier named Harry. Maxwell copes with boulders and even with temporarily losing his way, until he ultimately reaches the top and discovers a splendid view of his neighborhood and the city beyond. Wong's fine-lined, softly textured watercolor illustrations hint that Maxwell may be partly of Asian descent, but children are more likely to notice the quiet determination with which Maxwell faces each obstacle and the well-earned triumph he experiences upon reaching his goal.
- John Peters, Booklist

Written by Shari Becker and illustrated by Nicole Wong, Maxwell's Mountain (a Junior Library Guild Selection) is the story of a young boy who prepares and trains himself to climb to the top of a rocky mountain near his home. Though the mountain doesn't have snow-capped peaks in the stratosphere, it nonetheless poses its share of dangers that Maxwell must study for. Building up his physical endurance, and learning the strategy of an outdoorsman, Maxwell puts his preparations to good use, and must face challenges one step at a time as he climbs to the top. A rewarding story about dedication and perseverance, and the importance of balancing commitment to a goal with responsibility and keeping a cool head.
-Midwest Book Review

On Maxwell’s first visit to a new park, he is captivated by a mountain of yellow and brown boulders. “It was awesome. It was glorious. And it was big.” So big, in fact, that Maxwell’s parents won’t let him climb it. “That hill is where the big kids play,” his mom explains. But Maxwell is determined to prove he’s up to the challenge and after he does considerable research and training, his parents agree. Shari Becker’s captivating story is firmly grounded in the perspective of a small child for whom a hill of boulders is indeed a mountain, and successfully climbing them on his own truly makes him feel as if he’s standing on top of the world. Nicole Wong’s engaging watercolor and ink illustrations strike just the right tone, picking up on and extending moments of humor in Becker’s story while respecting the seriousness with which Maxwell views the challenge. Wong depicts Maxwell as a biracial child, with an Asian father and white mother.
-Cooperative Children’s Book Center



Maxwell's Inspiration
I was inspired to write Maxwell’s Mountain after watching my husband enthusiastically prepare for an outdoor adventure. I wondered how would he have prepared for his trip had he been a 6-year-old boy. I also felt there simply weren’t enough picture books about kids setting and accomplishing goals for themselves. I want kids to understand that you can do or be anything you want if you’re willing to learn and practice.
-Shari