Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Max and Sally and the Phenomenal Phone

Max and Sally and the Phenomenal Phone
Miloš Macourek & Adolf Born
Originally published in Czechoslovakia in 1982
English translation by Wellington Publishing, 1989

As my son is fully immersed in longer readers in the afternoons and evenings, I've still been holding true to picture books in the morning... and have been on the lookout for longer ones. I'd been intrigued by this title ever since Esme mentioned it in a post a few months back. Shortly thereafter, I was able to find it at a thrift shop and was not disappointed in the slightest. I might even go so far as to call this an epic picture book, but technically, it is really more of a fully illustrated chapter book of cosmic proportions.

In chapter one, we meet Max and Sally, two neighbors, friends and third graders... plus their buddy Johnathan, another neighbor's terrier. At school that day, Max is called on by the teacher to stand before the class and give a monologue about the behaviors and habits of rabbits.

But about Rabbits Max knew next to nothing. The only rabbits he knew were Bugs Bunny and Peter so he just kept repeating like a broken record, the wild rabbit lives in the woods, he lives in the woods, he lives in the woods... til the teacher stopped him and said, listen Max, even babies know that rabbits don't live in libraries or in ice cream parlors.

The language and writing in this book kills me, how it all spills together with no quotation marks or pesky grammar rules. Almost like a poem. And so... good thing for Max, later that afternoon he and Sally help a stranger who gifts them a seemingly ordinary telephone receiver... that turns out to be, well, phenomenal, of course.

Sally was laughing too and said jokingly into the receiver, Wouldn't it drive you really bats if there were a million cats? And after she had said it, the receiver answered, did you say a million? Suit yourself! Max and Sally stared, stunned, as unbelievable scores of cats appeared around them, tomcats and kittens, white, black, and dapple-gray, toms sitting on the road, cats in treetops, kittens on the rooftops, mewing till everyone's ears buzzed.

Basically, the phone makes anything you want to happen, happen. Pretty quick, the pair figure out that if they turn themselves into rabbits and explore, Max will surely get an A+ on his rabbit test retake... which he does. But there are still three more chapters to go wherein Jonathan gets changed into a boy so he can join Max and Sally on a field trip... the trio make themselves so tiny so as to sneak into Charlie Beans' body and battle his strep throat germs... and finally, they give all the animals at the zoo the gift of gab so that they might complain accordingly. Thus, why I referred to this book previously as EPIC. A super imaginative collaboration between two Czech artists; writer/filmmaker Macourek and illustrator/animator Born... wild and whacked out and definitely a keeper.


Unknown said...

This book IS EPIC. The bow on Sally's head says it all.

Antmusic said...

This book sounds amazing... and long.

I LOVE the illustrations too!

It looks like this duo (Macourek & Born) have done some other books... "Max and Sally on Holiday " and "Curious Tales" being two of them. There is another book called "How Max and Sally Got Hold of the Phenomenal Phone" (148 pages, according to Amazon)... I wonder if that is a sequel/prequel to this one or maybe it is just an alternate title....

Antmusic said...

HUH!? There was even a 2001 Czech live action MOVIE ("Mach, Sebestová a kouzelné sluchátko" AKA "Max, Sally and the Magic Phone") directed by Václav Vorlíček and a 1976-1983 series of animated shorts ("Mach and Šebestová") based on this series of books (or the books are based on the cartoons....????).

WEIRD, but fun!

Burgin Streetman said...

How super! Keep digging and let me know what you find! The original czech title according to the book was Mach a Šebestová... the earliest copyright is 1980 on the copyright page...

It IS really great. The bub wants to read it all the time. the book was too big to fit in my scanner, so these photos of the pages do not do the pictures justice.

Burgin Streetman said...

Soooo cute. I wish they were in English.


Antmusic said...

I think I actually SAW some of these in english back in the late '70s or early '80s ... on Nickelodeon's "Pinwheel" show... or "Today's Special" or something...

Okay... start here: http://www.kratkyfilm.com/catalogue/html/308.htm
and look at the "All films directed by M+B+D" section
Producer: KF a.s. - Studio Bratri v triku, Director: M+B+D (Macourek, Born, Doubrava), Designer: Adolf Born. They have an English description and a pic from each show on there!

They made a TON of films together! It looks like "Max and Sally and the Phenomenal Phone" contains a few of the movies in it. I just ordered a (book) copy of "Max and Sally and the Phenomenal Phone" and "Curious Tales" (which sounds like crazy fun)... but I can't find any English translated others that are affordable.

There are Czech DVD releases... but I have no idea if they have English subtitles or not (and they are Region 2 as far as I can tell).

Antmusic said...

I have found a few more book titles... some may never have been translated... many over 100 pages long... With translations, any of these could be the same book...

"Mach a Šebestová v historii" (ISBN 978-80-00-02227-7 / 80-00-01049-6) ("Max and Sally in History")

Max and Sally on the Move

Max and Sally in School (might be the same as "Phenomenal")

Max and Sally Out of School (might be the same again)

Max and Sally on Holiday

I also discovered that Milos died in 2002.

Brad said...

this books looks really great! thanks for sharing!!

Antmusic said...

Max and Sally and the Phenomenal Phone" is ALMSOST the same as "Max and Sally AT School," but SCHOOL has about three more stories in it (154 pages in the version I have)! Part II: "Max and Sally OUT of School" is a totally different book (130 pages). Part III: "Max and Sally on Holiday" is a totally different book (I don't have it yet).

As for "Max and Sally in History" and "Max and Sally on the Move," who knows?

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