Max Kowalski Didn’t Mean It

Publisher: Puffin

Max might tend to get into trouble now and again, but isn’t that just what boys do? That’s how his dad, Big Pete, sees it – and Max is just a smaller version of him, after all.

Yet when Big Pete does one too many not-quite-legal jobs for Nice Jackie, he leaves Max in charge of looking after his three sisters.

Trying to cope with feeding, clothing and reassuring his sisters is hard, though, especially when Dad hasn’t said how long he’ll be gone. So when Max finds a key to a remote Welsh cottage belonging to his friend’s family, he makes a plan.

When Max meets Tal and his two dads (patient, mountain-climbing Michael and gentle, cake-baking Bill), he learns that there are lots of different ways to be a man, and that his dad’s expectations that he should “step up” at such a young age aren't fair.

This is an utterly remarkable book about families, being a boy and coping with loss. Day’s characters are supremely well written, and her sensitive exploration of how boys are shaped into men flows perfectly into a story that compels the reader from the first moment.

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