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Masterpieceby Elise Broach
Synopses & Reviews
Marvin lives with his family under the kitchen sink in the Pompadays apartment. He is very much a beetle. James Pompaday lives with his family in New York City. He is very much an eleven-year-old boy.After James gets a pen-and-ink set for his birthday, Marvin surprises him by creating an elaborate miniature drawing. James gets all the credit for the picture and before these unlikely friends know it they are caught up in a staged art heist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that could help recover a famous drawing by Albrecht Dürer. But James cant go through with the plan without Marvins help. And thats where things get really complicated (and interesting!). This fast-paced mystery will have young readers on the edge of their seats as they root for boy and beetle.
In Shakespeares Secret Elise Broach showed her keen ability to weave storytelling with history and suspense, and Masterpiece is yet another example of her talent. This time around its an irresistible miniature world, fascinating art history, all wrapped up in a special friendship— something for everyone to enjoy.
Masterpiece is a 2009 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.
"With overtones of Chasing Vermeer and The Borrowers, this inventive mystery involves two families that inhabit the same Manhattan apartment: the Pompadays — a slick, materialistic couple, their infant son and thoughtful James, from the wife's previous marriage — and a family of beetles, who live behind the kitchen sink and watch sympathetically as James's charms go unappreciated. Careful though the beetles are to stay hidden, boy beetle Marvin crosses the line, tempted by a pen-and-ink set James receives for his 11th birthday. Marvin draws an intricate picture and then identifies himself to a delighted James as the artist. Before James can hide Marvin's picture, Mrs. Pompaday loudly proclaims her son's talent and even James's laid-back artist dad compares the work with the drawings of Albrecht Drer. A trip to a Drer exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art follows, James stowing Marvin in a pocket; before long a curator is asking James to forge a Drer miniature of Fortitude as part of an elaborate plan to catch an art thief (can a tiny virtue defeat big lies?). Broach (Shakespeare's Secret) packs this fast-moving story with perennially seductive themes: hidden lives and secret friendships, miniature worlds lost to disbelievers. Philosophy pokes through, as does art appreciation (one curator loves Drer for 'his faith that beauty reveals itself, layer upon layer, in the smallest moments'), but never at the expense of plot. In her remarkable ability to join detail with action, Broach is joined by Murphy (Hush, Little Dragon), who animates the writing with an abundance of b&w drawings. Loosely implying rather than imitating the Old Masters they reference, the finely hatched drawings depict the settings realistically and the characters, especially the beetles, with joyful comic license. This smart marriage of style and content bridges the gap between the contemporary beat of the illustrations and Renaissance art. Broach and Kelly show readers something new, and, as Marvin says, 'When you [see] different parts of the world, you [see] different parts of yourself.' Ages 8 — 13. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Meet Marvin, a beetle — and the most creative creepy-crawly since Charlotte, the word-weaving spider. He lives with his family in the tasteful (and sometimes tasty, if you're a beetle) Manhattan apartment inhabited by James, a quiet boy of 11. Marvin discovers his artistic talent one night when he dips into James' pen-and-ink set and creates an exquisite miniature. Even James' artist dad compares... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) it to the best drawings of Renaissance master Albrecht Durer. Since everyone assumes James is responsible, the boy must take credit for his friend's work or expose the true six-legged artist to possible extermination. Soon beetle and boy are swept up in a mystery involving art forgery and theft at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpiece" combines the art-heist excitement of "Chasing Vermeer" with the character depth of animal classics such as "Charlotte's Web" and "The Cricket in Times Square." Author Elise Broach attends lovingly to the tiny details of her fictional world — cotton-ball beds, peanut-shell swim floats — which also can be glimpsed in Kelly Murphy's occasional black-and-white illustrations. Families eager for a good read-aloud — and tweens for a read-alone — will find much to enjoy. (See p. 12 for a review of the audio book version of "Masterpiece.") Mary Quattlebaum is a children's author who reviews regularly for The Washington Post Book World. Reviewed by Mary Quattlebaum, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
(hide most of this review)
In this fast-paced mystery, eleven-year-old James and Marvin the beetle get caught up in a staged art heist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Marvin lives with his family under the kitchen sink in the Pompadays apartment. He is very much a beetle. James lives with his family in New York City. He is very much an eleven year-old boy. After James gets a pen and ink set for his birthday, Marvin surprises him by creating an elaborate miniature drawing. Then James ends up with all the credit, and is expected to do it again. Before they know it, the unlikely friends are caught up in an art heist that could lead them to a long-lost drawing by Albrecht Dürer. Of course, James cant go through with the plan without Marvins help. But can a boy take a beetle to a museum and let him recreate a master work of art without anyone knowing about it? Even more important, can he bring the beetle safely back home?
About the Author
ELISE BROACH is the author of the ALA Notable Book Shakespeares Secret and Desert Crossing. She holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in history from Yale University. She lives with her family in Easton, Connecticut.
KELLY MURPHY has illustrated many books for children, including Gallop-O-Gallop. She lives in North Attleboro, Massachusetts.
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