an average eleven-year-old, but lately his life is filled with so many
adventures and misadventures.
On a grey
day that doesn’t seem to go anywhere Mitch finds himself arguing with his mum
and dad about tidying his room after a tough week at school where he was being
taunted again by his nemesis Jason and his henchmen.
relationship between the characters is established in the first three chapters
and it doesn’t take long for you to realise that he believes he only has one
true friend, Maddy, a strong independent girl with a spirited sense of humour who
is not a girly girl or a tomboy.
encounter and flourishing relationship with a bedraggled feathered friend (a magpie
- Maximus) starts to give Mitch a positive focus away from the negativity at
school and home.
to restore his relationship with Ryan, an aboriginal boy oozing with integrity
and cultural awareness. Ryan shares a cultural story with Mitch about
hates the idea that his dad works away at the mines because he has become more
distant, moody and angry. Mitch wants things to be back like they were before
heat up when both he and his dad struggle to get their anger under control.
Mitch ends up punching his school nemesis, Jason, on the chin and gets
suspended. His dad loses his cool at the family and Mitch is deeply concerned
that his parents may break up.
full of thoughts of what happened at his dad’s work? Why was his dad was so
agro? What were his mum and dad fighting about? Would they eventually split up?
becomes central to the children’s lives for a time and Mitch resolves his
differences with his nemesis after Jason breaks his arm and Mitch kicks the
winning goal at the school lightning carnival.
takes place in ANZAC week. Mitch’s ANZAC Project ends up having a surprising
outcome when he shares it in class and discovers a unique connection with Li
Tan, a Vietnamese girl as well as a powerful reconnection with his dad.
through the story Mitch relates to his new feathered friend whom he helps restore
to full confidence, which becomes a parallel for his own sense of himself.
relationship with Maddy takes a fascinating turn at the beach where he ends up
realizing the fruit tingle feelings he has for her are actually a crush.
concludes with Mitch reflecting back on the eight-day journey after an
emotional farewell as Maximus is accepted back into the charm (collective noun
for magpies) and flies off.
a heartwarming story where the themes of restoration and reconciliation are
different elements weave together like a tapestry as the themes of friendships
and being yourself emerge powerfully.
REVIEW FROM CBCA READING TIME NEWSLETTER
Mitch is a Year Six student and everything sucks. He writes poems about
how everything sucks, in fact. He is being bullied at school, and he’s no
longer close to Ryan, a good friend. He sucks at footy in some ways, and while
he is good at the game in other ways, it’s the sucky part that sticks with him.
Stuff is happening with his parents – they are always fighting, and in
particular his Dad seems to get angry at every little thing. He doesn’t
understand why his Dad is like this, and he can tell that his Mum wants to help
him, but his Dad isn’t open to that help. So when Mitch inadvertently injures
Jason, the boy bullying him, things come to a head at school. It’s the
accumulation of the different things happening at home and at school, but Mitch
knows he’s in the wrong and apologies to Jason. It’s then that Mitch begins to
open up to his school chaplain and admit he needs help. Through all this, in
his backyard he has Maximus, a magpie with whom he makes friends. It’s almost
as if the backyard becomes his oasis in a world where things are just all wrong
for him. This is a book about allowing kids to feel all the things that it’s
not “cool” to feel – being bullied, being worried for your parents, and not
understanding why you’re feeling like everything is going wrong. It’s also a
book about asking for help, and about being unafraid to have these feelings of
loss, and anger – at your friends or your parents. Mitch is given some
excellent advice and coping mechanisms, and the author presents this in a way
that young readers are going to love – if Mitch can write a poem about how
everything sucks, and it’s essentially a list of all the things that suck… and
it makes him feel better, then young readers can too if they need to. The
resolution of his parents’ issues is particularly important too, because like
Mitch, his Dad final recognises he needs help and starts talking to a
counsellor, which makes a difference to their home life immediately. Young
readers will see that adults need the same sort of help they might too, and
that for young and old it’s okay to ask for it. There are lovely friendships,
and even an examination of ANZACs and what it means to Australians to honour
that history in Maximus. I liked that the author acknowledged refugees in the
book as well, by having a young Asian classmate of Mitch’s relate how her
family was affected by war as well, and her experiences as a refugee. I almost
think there are so many important issues the author tackles in this, that it
might be a better read, if some were saved for a second book. I can’t finish
without mentioning the lovely illustrations, which will resonate with young
readers as they will see their own messy rooms, backyards and family dinners in
Reviewed by Verushka Byron
REVIEW FROM LOVE TO READ LOCAL
Who would ever be a teenager again? The inexplicable waves of emotions,
confusing social situations, family discord; it’s all awkward and frankly
exhausting. As Mitch, our main character, valiantly tries to navigate the pitfalls,
it’s no wonder he seeks solace in the company of his backyard magpie mate,
Maximus. Steve Heron faithfully recreates the experience of early adolescence
in an identifiable Australian setting with a story rich in credible characters
and events. Sometimes we read for entertainment and fun and sometimes to learn,
or find wise counsel, in Maximus, you’ll find it all.
REVIEW FROM SAM AT LAMONT BOOKS
This book will really resonate with readers, particularly those that
might be going through a rough patch and feel isolated in their troubles.
Mitch thinks that the whole world is against him. Not only is he having trouble
with the kids at school, but his life at home is just as frustrating. His FIFO
Dad has changed and is now always angry and volatile, and his relationship and
interactions with his little sister just annoy him. The only thing that brings
him peace and happiness is the magpie, who he names Maximus, that now keeps
frequenting his backyard.
It is not until Mitch has a massive meltdown and lets all his built-up anger
and frustration out, that things start to turn around for him. This book really
does highlight that there are people around all of us that are there to help,
and each and every person has their own struggles that they deal with in
It has extremely strong themes of friendships, loyalty, family conflict and
conflict resolution, bullying and self-confidence, and it is a book that will
suit all those aged 9 and above.
What I love about Maximus: It's REAL - From the beach, to the bush, to the birds (especially the magpie), this is Western Australia! All the cultural references are spot on - from Mitch's FIFO Dad, to his whinging little sister Megan, to his Noongar friend Ryan, and even the doofus football star and bully, Jason. This could be a story from my town! It's UNREAL - This is a story about hope and possibility, about moving from antagonism to the creative space where problems can be solved. From one guerrilla Xn to another - Steve, it is inspiring to see the light overcome the darkness in a story that is set in the cultural time and place we both call home.