Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Juvenile fiction... Five Stars for Max and Menna...

Max and Menna
Shauna Kelley
Publisher: Lucky Press
Published: 2010
ISBN: 9780984462735
Pages: 198

Max and Menna is a great juvenile fiction book that I would readily share with teens. This book is a wonderful story about a set of twins growing up in the South in the early 1980s. Although set in the 1980s, the racist views of the townspeople make it feel like it takes place much earlier. It feels like the 60s! Menna and Max live in a house with an alcoholic mother who never notices them unless its to beat or ostracize them and with an older sister lost in a cycle of physical abuse stemming from both her mother and boyfriend. This story addresses issues that affect many people in our society--poverty, alcoholism, substance abuse and racism--forcing these children, like others, to be resilient. They are forced to take care of themselves and find their own way as many children do living in their conditions.

What I find interesting about this book is that the racism is different than what is overwhelmingly portrayed in most books or in movies. The racism in this book isn't about black and white issues. There is a young black girl in the book who is discriminated against but she isn't the focus. The focus is on the relationship between the Native American and white people in the town. This is a new outlook on racism in our society.

Max and Menna meet Nick one summer on the hill in the woods. Nick is a Native American boy that lives on the other side of the fence, literally, which the townspeople refer to as the reservation. Max and Menna live in horrible conditions but Nick's house is almost inhabitable. Like the twins, he lives in a home without his father, alcoholism and extreme poverty. Their lives are mirror images of each other although they are separated by the fence. The three become inseparable and the story becomes alive as we witness racism, alcoholism, poverty, abandonment, and love through the eyes of a child.

I think this book should be shared with preteens and teens as well as adults. I strongly feel this well written coming of age tale will allow the reader to see things from another perspective when interacting with people who are different from them ethnically and racially. So many people make judgments before ever interacting with someone who is different from them. Judging a person by the color of their skin or religion doesn't allow you to truly see the person inside.

When reading this book, the reader feels an array of feelings--anger, fear, sadness, anxiety, happiness--because the story is vivid and each character is so real. The reader is thrust into a world that could and still does exist. The reader gets lost in the book traveling along with Max and Menna cheering them along their journey.

I would love to see this book on the big screen. Great job Ms. Kelley shining the light on adult views through the most vulnerable people in our society...


  1. i can't wait to read this book and incorporate in into our school curriculum

  2. I've been waiting for this book for years! Shauna Kelley is an amazing writer, and you won't be disappointed!