Subtitled A Holocaust Story, this is really more about friendship and promise than the Holocaust itself.
Historically, the background is Denmark during the second World War.
Willy's father owns a shop selling odds and ends - everything from an enormous bronze angel to a haunting painting of The Lady.
Max's father is a Jewish professor who buys The Lady. Willy & Max become friends - declaring they will be friends forever.
When the Nazis come, Max and his father flee leaving The Lady in the care of Willy's father.
Both boy's fidelity to the 'friends forever' promise provides the final happy resolution to the story. Max survives the Holocaust, though this isn't clear for a while.
The illustrations are beautiful - just a touch of impressionism makes them feel as though they are of the time. The words are easy to read aloud and the story flows smoothly.
The preciousness of friendship - of risk taking for that which is right - of protecting good - of love that crosses boundaries of circumstance and time - and the harshness of prejudice and hate are all evident here.
We bought Willy & Max from the Sydney Jewish Museum in 2007 and it is still one of our most-read picture books - our thirteen-year-old will often pull it off the shelf and ask for it be read aloud again.
It's a book that puts everyday concerns into perspective while re-affirming goodness in the world and in its people.
Names in this book: Willy, Max