The Adventures of Maxima and Coustaud

The Tangled Tale

Children - Picture Book
62 Pages
Reviewed on 02/07/2021
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite

Coustaud, the French bulldog, and Maxima, the magical grey horse, are best friends. They enjoy going on adventures together. When met by a Queen Bee, Coustaud is nervous, afraid he might be stung. But the Queen Bee is much too weak to even consider stinging Coustaud. And she’s distraught. Her home in the mangrove tree has been poisoned with pesticides and she can’t breathe. This is a serious situation. As the Queen Bee explains, “Bees are extremely important, you know; because of us, you have food on your plates.” That doesn’t mean we all eat bees, like silly Coustaud first interprets. But they do pollinate the food we grow and they collect nectar to make honey. The best friends go out on the water in a kayak and discover a tiger that is starving, a dragon that is caught in the growing network of tangled roots, and they learn about the wonderful constellations in the night sky. The most important thing they learn is that they have to protect their environment before it’s too late and even they won’t be able to breathe or eat.

Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan Al Nahyan’s picture book story, The Adventures of Maxima and Coustaud: The Tangled Tale, is a clever way to teach young readers about protecting our environment. Starting with the sad plight of the honeybees and extending the web of disaster to other forest animals, the author presents a grim tale of human-made destructive forces. Inserted in parts of the story are interesting tidbits about the different types of forests, how honeybees and the food chain are connected, and the constellations in the night sky. The author concludes with some interesting Did You Know tips at the end of the book. The story is written in simple language, with a dash of humor at Coustaud’s expense. Lots of words are shaped to emphasize the action within the story, like the sentence, “The water was becoming rough” which pictures the words flowing in a wave-like pattern. With beautiful, colorful illustrations, this is a fun story for young readers to help them realize that we all have to work together to make our planet safe and healthy for everyone, including the honeybees.

Jon Michael Miller

The Tangled Tale, a picture book for kids by Sheika Shamma bint Sultan bin Kalifa Al Nahyan, is part of a series with this book dedicated to environmental issues. The two characters that connect the series are a flying horse named Maxima and a macho, loveable French bulldog named Coustaud. In this volume, they are learning how pesticides and other harsh chemicals affect air quality. The two friends’ amusing odyssey is led by a queen bee they encounter as they explore a mangrove forest. Along the way, they meet a malnourished tiger, a struggling crab, a tangled-up dragon, and even a city-dwelling lady spraying her beehive hair. Illustrative diagrams show how everything is connected, the pollination cycle, the mangrove ecosystem, and the constellations. At the end, there’s a “Did You Know” page with added facts. Finally, we see the real horse and dog upon which Maxima and Coustaud are based.

As I was reading and enjoying the magnificent full-page illustrations by Dr. Dianne Breeze, I imagined reading this book with my seven-year-old granddaughter Brittany. So, I gave it a try. She loved the characters, especially Coustaud. We paused to discuss vocabulary, words such as pesticide, boreal, poisonous, camouflaged, navigate, constellations, intuition (this one was fun but tricky to explain), canopy, pod, organic, and a few others. I was glad that the author included such terms for upward learning. I also imagined a teacher using the book in a class even though some people think the environment is capable of taking care of itself. The illustrations will, I think, appeal even to pre-school children despite the complexity of the issues discussed. But there is no doubt that this picture book will help untangle the tangled story of the human effect on the earth’s environment due to the interconnectedness of all things. Brittany and I had great fun going through The Tangled Tale together.

Jack Magnus

The Tangled Tale: The Adventures of Maxima and Coustaud is an environmental adventure picture book for children written by Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan and illustrated by Dr. Dianne Breeze. Maxima and Coustaud were the best of friends even though they seemed very different. Coustaud was a diminutive and funny French bulldog, while Maxima was a lovely and elegant mare who was able to fly. They both loved having adventures and visiting new places. When they decided to visit a mangrove forest, their enjoyment of the lovely natural setting was interrupted by the worried buzzing of a bee. Coustaud was terrified of bees and frantically attempted to evade the stinging insect, while Maxima waited to see what was happening. They noticed how this bee was also different; she was wearing a crown. She explained that she was a queen bee. Her hive mates have to look for a new home as they could no longer breathe in their lovely forest. But why? What was happening to the bees? How could it be reversed?

Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan’s The Tangled Tale: The Adventures of Maxima and Coustaud eloquently shares with young readers the interconnectedness of all living beings with planet Earth in a compelling story about two explorers and their visit to a mangrove forest in crisis. The author introduces complex topics in a manner that makes them accessible to their target audience while also showing how being part of the change is within the reach of each of us. Dr. Breeze’s marvelous panels make each of the ecosystems Maxima and Coustaud visit come alive brilliantly. Add to that an inspiring introduction to astronomy and the nighttime skies, and you have a book that’s likely to have kids happily settling in for many repeated reading adventures. The Tangled Tale: The Adventures of Maxima and Coustaud is a marvelous introduction to earth and environmental science; it’s also a grand and entertaining adventure guaranteed to thrill young readers. It’s most highly recommended.