Max, a white boy who is the only deaf student and hearing-aid user in his English boarding school, loves building models, but his world changes when his brilliant mentor, Mr. Darrow, the school janitor, inexplicably disappears.
When Max investigates Darrow’s room, he discovers a minuscule civilization known as the Floor, populated by millions of tiny, sentient people. By using Mr. Darrow’s special goggles, lip-reading, and a special setting on his hearing aids, Max can communicate with the warring populace, who have divided themselves up by hair and eye color (skin color is not mentioned) into separate factions: Blues, Reds, and Greens. With the help of Sasha, Max’s white American roommate; Sasha’s Sparkle Pony–obsessed little sister; Luke, a young Blue prince; and a Red girl named Ivy, Max helps unite the factions, saves the micro world from the evil headmaster, and discovers what happened to Mr. Darrow. Running parallel to Max’s story is one that centers on Luke, in which Max is the Giant. In the author’s note, Montgomery details his research into the experiences of deaf children. Max’s feelings of social isolation due to his deafness are honest, and his growing friendship with Sasha is heartwarming. It is surprising that Max uses no technology beyond hearing aids to navigate the hearing world, but some of this can be understood as more of the headmaster’s incompetence and neglect. While some of the details are inconsistently presented, much of the worldbuilding is deliciously clever.
A fast-paced and enjoyable adventure that encourages readers to appreciate the small things in life. (Fantasy. 8-12)