At 10 years old, Max Engel did not speak. It’s not that he couldn’t talk; in fact, he spoke quite well but had chosen not to for the time being. Truth be told, his vocabulary far exceeded other boys. Words like “paleontology” (the science of studying fossils) and “linguistic” (belonging to languages) came from his mouth easily. So this “not talking” wasn’t a permanent situation. Years later – sorry to jump ahead a little – Max Engel would speak four English, German, French and Spanish fluently by the time he was 25 years old. Older, grownup Max Engel, unlike 10-year-old Max Engel, would never stop talking. He had a gift for the nuances or slight differences in language. But Max Engel would not just become a linguist, one who speaks many languages. He would also become an anthropologist, one who studies ancient cultures. Using his language skills, he would spend his life teaching people about the ways of different societies and human behaviors, with a special focus on wars. But that would be later. For now, Max wouldn’t say a word, not yes or no, or even ask for his favorite cereal. He just wouldn’t say anything at all.
For the sake of the story, we won’t talk about (no pun intended) why younger Max had stopped talking – well, not just yet. Don’t worry, in time, little Max will tell you himself. This story begins after he had gone silent and how eventually he would speak again. This is a lesson about how Max Engel, by not talking to his older brother Hugo, his parents Mom and Papa, his best friends Ben and Kavan, and all his other friends, including his neighbors, Mr. Klopp and Mrs. Carmichael, learned how to listen to the people he loved and do remarkable things for them. And this is the story of how, without language or words, Max Engel and all the people around him became extraordinary. Oh, and there is a hidden treasure as well.