Review: Max and the Not-So-Perfect Apology

Max and the Not-So-Perfect Apology

by Carl Harris Shuman, illustrated by Rory Walker and Michael Garton

Apples & Honey Press (imprint of Behrman House), 2024

Category: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Judy Greenblatt

Max has a time machine – one that works! Author Carl Harris Shulman use this device, in this third title in the Torah Time Travel Series, to draw his audience in. Max takes off in it to seek solace after a fight with his best friend. He’s especially sad and angry because she has made a new friend, and won’t come with him. This trip lands him in the middle of the biblical Jacob story, which just happens to be the story his class is working on. It was this class project that started his disagreement with his special friend. The argument led each of them to say things they didn’t mean, but neither could find a way to apologize. Enter Jacob, here called Jake, a man who is estranged from his brother, but who wants to mend the relationship. As Max talks to Jacob about his struggle to mend fences with his brother, Max takes note of Jacob’s strategies.

The casual style and language used by the author will make it easy for the intended audience enter the story with appreciation and understanding. Cartoon style illustration will add to audience appreciation. They show a modern-day Max, decked out in a superman-style cape, juxtaposed with “Jake” dressed in what we think of as biblical dress.

This book uses the biblical story of Jacob and Esau to present values of hesed, kindness and rahamin, compassion that are important to all branches of Judaism. Biblical stores can be difficult for children to understand and appreciate. They are also the sources of learning important lessons. Here, the two stories enrich each other, each helping to comprehend the other, as “Jake” and Max tell each other of their fears. The way the story is told makes it accessible to Jew and non-Jew alike.

To help parents communicate the message to their children, the book includes a very helpful note to families. This note about apologies includes several questions that will be helpful to families wrestling with this important aspect of communication skills.

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Reviewer Judith S. Greenblatt says: I hold a Master of Library Service from Rutgers-The State University, and a Master of Arts in Jewish Studies from Hebrew College, Newton, Ma. I have been Director of Library Services at the Bureau of Jewish Education of Rhode Island, served as Vice President and President of the School, Synagogue and Center Division of AJL. Publications include: 1985-86 Book lists; for young children, for 3rd to 6th graders, for young adults, 100 Plus Books For The Children's Library: A Basic Collection. Weine Classification Scheme for Judaica Libraries. Revised by Judith S. Greenblatt, Chairman. 8th edition. Association of Jewish Libraries, Synagogue, School and Center Division, 1994.