'Max Counts to a Million' is one boy's story of lockdown. It's both fun and cathartic, reminding us of what we've all been through with a healthy dose of humour, tenderness and joy.
After everything shuts down because of the pandemic, eight-year-old Max has to get to grips with being at home while his Mum works in her bedroom and his Dad works at the hospital. There's a lot to worry about, especially as Max's Granddad gets the virus too. So, to distract himself, Max starts counting: the rice from his dinner, the slats on the fence, the stars in the sky. Eventually, his efforts attract a lot of attention; something that will bring hope and unity to the community.
While some readers may not wish to revisit the trauma of recent lockdowns, for many children, and adults, this book offers a way of processing what has happened in a lighthearted and sensitive way. Firstly, Jeremy Williams has captured the voice of a young boy perfectly. Max's observations on the spread of Covid-19 and the government's responses is hilarious and enlightening in its truthfulness. Everyone has been affected by the pandemic but through Max's perspective we're reminded of the absurdity of it all with a sensitive appreciation of just how difficult and worrying it was too, especially for children. I loved Max's blunt assessment of the rules given by the floppy haired Prime Minister who bangs his fists.
In my school in Watford we've often talked about the 'shadow' the pandemic has cast over all our lives and how long it is likely to take to properly come to terms with what has happened. 'Max Counts to a Million' is exactly the sort of book that encourages a healthy reflection and reevaluation of the pandemic for children. Most of all, it reminds us of how brilliant we can be in the face of such testing times. Max becomes almost like a young Captain Tom - defiantly raising money for the NHS through his relentless counting. It's endearing, sweet and hopeful. My Year 4 class would love this book for all these reasons and this is a story I will be recommending to staff at my school as a way of processing just how far we've come in a mere couple of years.
Thank you Jeremy Williams! And thank you to Nosy Crow for my copy to review.