Bloom, Laura, Mika & Max. Walker Books Australia, August 2019, 166pp,, RRP $16.99, (pbk), ISBN 9781760651145
Mika is growing up, though it seems her mother does not quite see it just yet. When the book opens, Mika and her family are on holiday at a music festival and right away, there’s an unease about Mika any young reader on the cusp of change will recognise. Laura Bloom manages to convey Mika’s unease with her skin, or the rather the skin that no longer fits her because she’s figuring out who she is – is she the person to be pulled in a dozen different directions pleasing everyone else or just the one she wants to be pulled in?
It is on her holiday that she gets to know Max, a young boy who has autism, and is non-verbal. But Bloom manages to convey Max’s presence and his personality through his interactions with Mika and his parents. And as Bloom herself has a son like Max, there’s a depth to his character that makes his interactions with his parents all the more poignant.
As Mika struggles with her worries about her relationships back home, she finds herself drawn to Max, and she tries to understand what it means that he has autism. Together, they find themselves on an adventure when they should be at a music festival and Mika learns something new about what Max is capable of. And she learns what she wants for herself – growing up is as hard to do as it is for a parent to let go.
Mika & Max is the story of an unusual friendship, and a coming of age story that will resonate with readers. Bloom handles these two characters with a deft touch, resulting in a captivating story.
Reviewed by Verushka Byrow