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by Quint Buchholz

Pub Date: Oct. 20th, 1999
ISBN: 0-374-31520-5
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

In the manner of Van Allsburg’s The Mysteries of Harris Burdick (1984), Buchholz has created an intriguing story with illustrations that are surreal and strangely mythic. Max, an artist, comes one warm March day to live in the apartment above the first-person narrator’s home, in a town that could be anywhere on a European coastline. His stay will be temporary but his impact on the narrator, whom he calls “Professor,” is lasting. In fact, the lonely young violinist (now a professor) tells this story in retrospective, almost elegiac tones and because he places such value on the artist’s friendly presence, readers don’t want Max to go, either. They will want to see those paintings of what he calls “moments” as much as the narrator does. When the boy sees the paintings, he recalls snippets of the artist’s conversation that appear as captions for the art: “Snow elephants in Canada. It lasts just for the blink of an eye” and “The evening before, the circus had given its farewell performance.” He is often in the paintings, glimpsed from the back, or in profile, and his lesson may be that the moment he has collected in a painting includes the past, present, and future—true, finally, of his last work, of the narrator. By the end, readers have shared what’s important in the journey of Max, and to the boy whose friendship has been part of his observed life. (Picture book. 6+)