Max and the Dumb Flower Picture by Martha G. Alexander

Max and the Dumb Flower Picture is a book with an agenda. Namely, to encourage children to create their own art, instead of just coloring “inside the lines”. While I applaud the message, the vehicle is somewhat problematic for me. This is a book to carefully discuss with your children.

Max, a small boy of preschool age, doesn’t want to color the “dumb flower picture” his teacher has chosen for his Mother’s Day gift. Max knows his mom would much prefer something he’s created himself. However, Max is too small to express this to his teacher, so he reacts in typical small-child fashion – he refuses to obey. Actually, he pouts, he stomps, he eventually runs out of the classroom and hides. His teacher is so worried, she calls the police to help find him. When Max is finally found, he has created his very own picture for his mom, which so inspires the other children they rush back to their desks to create something of their own, too. In the end, the mothers are all thrilled with their unique gifts, and the teacher has learned an important lesson from this small boy.

Does this bother any one else?

Reading this to my 3- and 5-year-olds, we had to discuss how worried the teacher and the policeman were when they couldn’t find Max. While Max did have a good point, in wanting to make his own picture, he carried it out badly. Most importantly, we discussed other, better, ways that Max could have handled the situation. A valuable lesson to be sure, but one you want to be prepared to teach.

Although the story could probably be appreciated by a toddler, the necessary discussion to follow makes it more suited for an older child, perhaps 4 – 6 years old.

Available on Amazon

Max and the Dumb Flower Picture by Martha G. Alexander, illustrated by Martha Alexander and  James Rumford. Charlesbridge, 2009.

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