The coronavirus is looming and eight year old Max is trying his best to understand exactly what is happening. As the lockdown gets underway, he realises that things aren't as easy as he first thought, so in an attempt to annoy his mum, he decides he's going to count to a million, but when he realises exactly how big a million is and how long it's going to take him, will he make it all the way?
I have to admit that I was a little wary when I first heard about this book. Was it too early to be writing about covid? How would children take it? However, I very quickly discovered that I was very wrong! From the beginning of the book, the first person, chatty style was warm and engaging, and I found myself smiling and giggling along with Max (and also desperately in need of smarties!)
Max is an endearing character whose charm and view of the pandemic made me smile and will undoubtedly help children to see recent events in a more light-hearted way (I will, from now on, see the virus as suitcase carrying zombies!). I think it the child's-eye view of things adds an element of humour to the book and I really like that. It's what children need and I think it will help children to frame their own experiences of lockdown in a positive light.
From remote learning to an hour of exercise; panic buying to chatting to the neighbours during the Thursday evening clap, Williams has captured the details of what was a most unusual time for everyone and it's this attention to detail, put in a way that children will be able to relate to, that makes this such a great read. I'm sure there were plenty of times when my son wanted to annoy me during lockdown; however, I know we relished our daily walks (especially when I was about to throw my laptop out the window!) and, of course, being apart from family and missing events like parties was difficult for us and are things we won't forget in a hurry. Our children will be talking about this to their grandchildren ('I remember when I was your age and we couldn't go to school...') and I think this book will show them a different side to such a huge event and will remind every reader (young and old) that there was a lighter side to the pandemic.
I find myself waffling now and quite possibly going off on a tangent (I feel Max would understand!). It's safe to say that Max Counts to a Million is a triumph of a book, it's a moving and heart-warming story about what can happen when we can't go outside; it's about dealing with change and how communities can come together, even in the worst of times. I know that readers will love Max and I can't wait to share this book with my class.