The game’s on in this endearing story of friendship and the Olympian spirit from talented illustrator Alexandra Boiger, who makes her author-illustrator debut with Max and Marla.
Max is a determined young boy, and Marla is his best—and most feathered—friend, a snowy white owl. The two companions are Olympic hopefuls, and though they may not have their eye on the international games themselves, a true Olympian knows that the spirit of such competitions can inspire anyone with an imagination—as well as a giant, snow-covered hill behind their home. Boiger kicks things off by speaking directly to readers, should they dare doubt the duo’s Olympian status: “Wait, you don’t believe it? Just watch.”
Their sport of choice is sledding, and each time they head out to the massive hill (“Ready. Set. Go!”), they face obstacles, such as technical difficulties and strong winds. But perseverance and fearlessness (not to mention, on a very practical level, preparation) are the name of the game here. “True Olympians never give up,” Boiger repeatedly reminds readers. She paces the story nicely: The duo stops to rest—“Tomorrow will be a new day”—as well as takes a sick day, because taking care of oneself, after all, is the key to good sportsmanship.
There are several moments of humor, such as when they finally make it down the hill and land at the bottom as giant snowballs. But readers will enjoy how they make the most of it, and they will also ooh and ahh over Boiger’s beautiful blue and white aerial snow spreads, rendered via ink and watercolors.
Despite all the snow and ice, it’s a warm story of two winning friends, Olympians through and through. Maybe we’ll see them again in future books. They’re good as gold.
Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.