This was my first Cynthia Voigt's book, and I will admit that Ms. Voigt is a very capable author.
This book was given to me by my local librarian to read with my little one. Actually, I did not see the finished edition, as my edition was an ARC. Nevertheless, it was one enjoyable read.
Without going into the details of the plot itself, my hat's off to Ms. Voigt for getting the settings, customs, dresses, and activities correct for the time period in which this novel takes place. Furthermore, an applause for creating a character, Max, who is both believable and resourceful. Imagine all this without magic, vampires, fairies.... Finally, a young reader book with a believable storyline, normal character, and typical mundane activities.
Max is just an average kid who finds himself in a precarious situation. His inner state of mind shows that he is a kid: he is afraid, confused, vulnerable. But he is at the ripe age where he wants to proves himself, he wants to be independent. And to this goal, as well as the main plot, Max uses whatever resources he has available to him.
I enjoyed his relationship with his grandmother (who lives next door), her worrying about him, his trying to prove he can be independent, both of them meeting in the middle and reaching a compromise that suits them as best as possible. I enjoyed the portrayal of his fears and worries. I also enjoyed his resourcefulness, which knows very little boundaries. Max has at his disposal a trunk full of costumes, a limited theatrical background, and years of watching his parents perform on stage. However, as he overcomes challenge after challenge, no matter what role he takes on, inside he remains a kid. And his actions once out of character show that rather well.
As for a reading grade, the book is recommended to 8-12 year old. There are words, sentences, and references that a reader in that age group will not understand. Surely, introducing readers to new words is a great thing, and they can look those words up in a dictionary. Still, there are references to plays and characters from plays that will need further research. Personally, I found this a great opportunity to discuss a word, a play, or a character Max assumes, with my audience. I can honestly say this would be a good read-along book, especially if your audience is on the lower end of the recommended age level.
There were a couple of instances where a solution to a problem came too easily for my personal tastes, but it did not spoil the novel for me.
Despite the hook-and-bait ending that makes you cry out for more, this was an enjoyable read. A realistic, entertaining read.