At dusk, when he couldn't draw anymore, Max used to sing . . . . His songs were wordless. I'd snuggle into the cozy red easy chair and listen. With these vivid images, German illustrator and author Quint Buchholz begins his gorgeous newchildren's book, The Collector of Moments.
The narrator of this charming and beautifully illustrated story visits daily an old painter named Max. Max paints constantly, but turns the pictures to face the wall. He explains that an artist can't show a picture too soon. He also tells stories of things he has seen a floating circus wagon, snow elephants in Canada.
Then one day Max leaves town for awhile and asks the boy to care for his studio. When he enters, the boy finds that the pictures are now turned outward, creating a private exhibition for him, with brief cryptic notes by Max. The paintings show many of the outrageous scenes Max described in his stories. As he thinks about the pictures, the boy reflects, Max always captured a precise moment. But I understood that there was always a story attached to this moment which had begun long before and would continue long afterward. He remembers that Max had once said, I'm merely the collector. I collect moments. Penguins walking down a city street, a giant flute being air-lifted in the dusk by balloons these are some of Max's moments. A king, a little girl, and a lion head out to sea in a small boat with an outboard motor. A boy and his six-inch-high companion stare out to sea together. The pictures are saturated in both subtle color and subtle emotion.
Finally the boy realizes why Max wanted him to see the pictures while he was away so that he would decipher them on his own. The answers to all my questions, the boy thinks to himself, were revealed in the long spells which I spent in front of the pictures. Children who read and look at The Collector of Moments will have the same response as the narrator long spells of becoming lost in the pictures, slowly finding the answers for themselves. And then they will understand the lovely moment on the last page, when the boy receives a final gift from Max.
Michael Sims is the author of two children's science books that will be published next year.