cover image Dear Max

Dear Max

Sally Grindley, , illus. by Tony Ross. . S&S/McElderry, $14.95 (140pp) ISBN 978-1-4169-0392-5

With a nod to Beverly Cleary's Dear Mr. Henshaw , Grindley's (Spilled Water ) big-hearted novel reveals the correspondence between nine-year-old Max and his favorite author, D.J. Lucas. Max confides to the writer that he wants to begin a story, and asks her to help him. It turns out that she is "in the same boat"; her editor has asked her to write a new book, yet her imagination has left her "completely stranded." Suddenly inspired, D.J. informs her pen pal that she has launched a story about a nine-year-old boy." Kindly and humorously, D.J. slips into her letters snippets of writing advice and encouragement, while subtly addressing problems to which the boy alludes: he misses his father, is not able to eat what he likes and dreads going to the doctor. Grindley's smooth pacing lets readers learn the particulars of Max's issues over time. When the boy muses on how to deal with the bad guys in his fictional story (stand-ins for a class bully), D.J. advises him to "Grit your teeth, Max. Use that big imagination of yours to make things better." The resourceful child does, with rewarding results. Other aspiring writers may well find inspiration in this portrait of a mutually fulfilling rapport. Ages 6-9. (July)