Everything about the book Maximillian Villainous (Running Press Kids, 2018) made me know it was going to be a hit at school. To be honest, I was excited to find this book at the library and I knew my enthusiasm would add to their interest. The title alone captured the imagination of the children who wanted to know more about this villainous monster. But wait, Max isn’t a villain! And right away, the author had us engaging with the main character.
The class of second and third graders may not know about the rule of three, expertly employed by author Margaret Chiu Greanias, but they sure appreciated the way it was woven into the story. The three tasks for Max: “1. Steal something 2. Make someone cry 3. Gain fame by being devious” are cleverly highlighted in the illustrations so that children focused on the list. We even compared it to the classroom rules, which was fun and another way to interact with the story. Of course, the students explained the tasks were the opposite of what they should be, demonstrating that the author and illustrator did a great job engaging the readers early in the story.
As a picture book writer, I’ve been studying different aspects of craft and I know how important page turns are. This book is a model of page turns done well. I’d like to mention two excellent examples. The first that attracted attention (read children needed to chime in with their predictions) involved the bunnies digging in the Sandman’s stash of magic sleeping dust. Many of the children knew what would come next. The other is when Max has an idea, complete with the villainous “Mua-ha-Ha!” This was definitely the class’s favorite part of the book (read everyone was making the sound and believed Max was turning into a villain like the rest of his family.) Well played, Margaret!
The illustrations (by Lesley Breen Withrow) in Maximillian Villainous are fantastic. They are colorful, full of wonderful detail, but not too busy, and whimsical, matching the tone of the story. Even the way the Illustrations were laid out on the pages and the use of signs and notes created a high level of interest for the children and for me.
This book definitely earns 5 stars from me because it’s got humor and heart on every page. Additionally, it allowed for a fun reading lesson learning about problem and solution in a story where they weren’t as obvious as in many books. This helped me know what the children understood and which ones needed more help. It is more proof that picture books are excellent vehicles for learning.
Laura Roettiger is the author of the picture book Aliana Reaches for the Moon (Eifrig Publishing, 2019) She has enjoyed working with children ever since she was no longer considered a child herself. She was a reading specialist and elementary teacher in Chicago, IL before moving to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado where she worked in Environmental Education and is now a mentor for reading and writing at a STEM school. Her superpower is encouraging curiosity in children and letting them know she believes in them. Laura has three children of her own, all of whom were led by curiosity and creativity into STEM-related professions. Laura is also a part of #PictureBookBuzz, a group of authors with books being released in 2019.
Find Laura on Twitter @ljrwritenow and at her website LauraRoettigerBooks.com.