A boy has only a month before school starts to run friendship experiments in this illustrated children’s novel.
Maximilian Alexander McConk is 9.85 years old—he enjoys being precise—and is about to enter fourth grade. Although science makes sense to him, people don’t. Ever since preschool, his best friend Miguel has been the one who initiates conversations with other kids. Max isn’t shy all the time, but he’s self-conscious about not fitting in. Unlike most kids he meets, Max loves to read and gather facts, and he loves rhyming words. He also has a few other unusual quirks, such as wearing racing goggles and a cape, geocaching for fun, and taking banjo lessons. In sum, says Max, “Lonely + different + shy = YIKES!” After Miguel moves away, Max decides to use the scientific method to find new friend. He tries out several hypotheses, including changing his behavior in order to fit in with other kids, before eventually settling on just being himself. At first, his experiments at a nearby park end in tongue-tied embarrassment and flight, but he keeps trying. Max’s mother, referencing the “bee girl” in the music video for Blind Melon’s 1992 song “No Rain,” says that “you just need to find YOUR bees!” The advice eventually works, and Max celebrates his three new friends in rhyme: “I GET my new bros, and my new bros GET me, / and oh, by the way, one new bro is a SHE!” In her debut novel, author/illustrator Giles cleverly uses composition-notebook graphics to emphasize the science experiment format of the story. Max’s voice is believable, funny, and fresh—he sounds like he’d be a great kid to know. The book acknowledges, with compassion, how difficult it is for offbeat, shy kids to make friends, and it offers useful guidelines to “Finding YOUR Bees.” Its perspective on “fitting in” is also useful: “Just because I don’t fit IN doesn’t mean that I don’t fit somewhere.” The pleasingly jaunty illustrations depict a diverse group of kids with various skin tones; Max has “LOTS of curly black hair” and light brown skin.
A funny tale with great advice for those who “fit out,” not in.