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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Children’s Literary Toys: Max by Maira Kalman

A package arrived in the mail for the small Bird the other day.  Though she has no hand-eye coordination and questionable social skills, Baby Bird occasionally gets a toy worth noting.  I’ve done one post before on the array of children’s literary toys that are out there that I have seen.  Here is another for now I find that there’s a new toy on the market and it’s only available through the Jewish Museum Shops.

Those of you familiar with the artist Maira Kalman have probably stumbled upon her Max books at some point.  Max is ostensibly a dog.  He exists in a variety of picture books, including Max Makes a Million, Ooh-la-la (Max in Love), Max in Hollywood, Baby, and more.  Had you asked me how to make an actual Max doll I’d have been hard pressed to say.  I mean, here’s an average image of Max:

Making a doll from that would take some doing.  It’s not like you’re making a Mo Willems Pigeon with its straight black lines.  And yet, and yet, it could be done.  In conjunction with the current Kalman exhibit Maira Kalman: Various Illuminations (of a Crazy World) I present to you this limited edition Max doll:

I have to admit, I’m utterly charmed by him.  His inner pockets reveal two pieces of writing.  One is a shopping list that lists the following:

Brown socks
Jelly doughnuts
Itching powder
Cheese juice
More jelly doughnuts
Map of Iceland

The opposite pocket contains a note with this to say:


I showed Max to Monica Edinger the other day and she wondered, rightly, about the state of his underwear.  All good dressed toys make sure not to skimp on the knickers.  So we pulled down his elastic waisted pants and voila!  Red underwear with white polkadots.  Add in the removable shoes, the pocket handkerchief (also removable), his hat, scarf, and shirt and you have a remarkable toy.  Everything he wears can be taken off, yet none of it falls off of him of its own accord.  This is one well made little guy!

Fans of the Max books may be able to clarify a mystery for me too.  Why on earth does he have the mysterious initials “MS” sewn into the back of his coat?

And for those of you looking to buy one for someone in your own life, you can find them for sale here and a host of other Maira Kalman objects d’art (including her famous New Yorkistan New Yorker cover as a shower curtain) here.   Thanks to Lisa and her illustrious crew (both those of the marital and offspringish persuasion) for the lovely gift.

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. MS — Max’s last name is Stravinsky!

  2. Ah, I love me some Max! Seriously: Max Makes A Million was single-handedly responsible for me falling back in love with kids books as an adult. A sort of adult. That is, a college student. Thus began my love of picture books, which spilled over to middle grade and YA. A certain wizard book was pivotal too. I just bought 13 Words by Maira Kalman and Lemony Snicket YESTERDAY. Love her. Love love love. Max Makes A Million is such a fabulous read-aloud!