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.)
"It's better to turn to a book for young listeners that delivers on the full power of audio to create an alternate and real universe. That potential is fully realized in Masterpiece
by Elise Broach...Marvin and his opinionated family are an auditory delight, and the reading by Jeremy Davidson is entertaining, for adults and children alike." - Winston-Salem Journal
"Jeremy Davidson brings an eager, animated voice to Elise Broach's Masterpiece
...The many voices and range of moods, from ruefulness to elation, ably convey the perplexities and ingenuities that arise when a boy and a bug team up to take on the world." - The Washington Post
"Davidson skillfully portrays the various characters, easily transitioning between their voices. This marvelous story is sure to be a hit with middle school students." - School Library Journal, Starred Review
“Actor Jeremy Davidson uses his versatile voice and excellent timing to deliver a superb reading… [He] doesn't miss a beat in dramatizing this tale's strong emotions and making us empathize with Marvin and James. It's compelling listening.” - Sacramento Bee
“Davidson convincingly conveys James emotions, from fear to sadness. Light and bouncy orchestral accompaniment is reminiscent of a walk through Central Park on a warm spring day. Ideal family listening fare.” - Booklist
“With contagious pleasure, Jeremy Davidson introduces young listeners to the artist Durer…. Listeners will soak up this engaging mystery replete with art trivia.” - AudioFile
“Jeremy Davidsons reading of this audiobook is stellar. He captures James fears and concerns, his loneliness, and his joy when he makes a friend. The emotions that Davidson manages to convey in his voice are ones that any listener will respond to and be able to identify with.” - www.lookingglassreview.com
"Brilliantly crafted by Elise Broach, the audio version of this title is an engaging romp for middle-grade listeners who may discover there's more than meets the eye, when you read with your ears." - Birmingham Parent
“A fast-paced mystery now on five audio CDs, “Masterpiece” is dramatically told by actor Jeremy Davidson, and is 5.5 hours of suspenseful audio entertainment for middle graders.” - Creators.com
“Murphys own pen-and-ink spot art reflects the texts sweet insouciance. With suspense, art history, complex family relationships (human and arthropod), and a resonant friendship, this enjoyable outing will satisfy the reserved and adventurous alike.”—Booklist
“With overtones of Chasing Vermeer and The Borrowers, this inventive mystery involves two families that inhabit the same Manhattan apartment . . . Broach packs this fast-moving story with perennially seductive themes: hidden lives and secret friendships, miniature worlds lost to disbelievers.”—Publishers Weekly
“This is a great mystery for young adolescents.”—KLIATT
“Delightful intricacies of beetle life . . . blend seamlessly with the suspenseful caper as well as the sentimental story of a complicated-but-rewarding friendship that requires a great deal of frantic leg-wiggling on Marvins part. Murphys charming pen-and-ink drawings populate the short chapters of this funny, winsome novel.”—Kirkus Reviews
"Inventive ... Broach ... packs this fast-moving story with perennially seductive themes: hidden lives and secret friendships, miniature worlds lost to disbelievers ... Broach and Kelly show readers something new."
--Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) "Delightful intricacies of beetle life ... blend seamlessly with the suspenseful caper as well as the sentimental story of a complicated-but-rewarding friendship ... Murphys charming pen-and-ink drawings populate the short chapters of this funny, winsome novel."
--Kirkus Reviews "This marvelous story is sure to be a hit."
--School Library Journal
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 New York Times bestselling author of books for children and young adults, including Desert Crossing and Shakespeares Secret, as well as several picture books. Her books have been selected as ALA notable books, Junior Library Guild selections, an E.B. White Read Aloud Award, and nominated for an Edgar Award, among other distinctions. Ms. Broach holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in history from Yale University. She was born in Georgia and lives in the woods of rural Connecticut, walking distance from three farms, a library, a post office and two country stores. Kelly Murphy has illustrated many books for children including Hush Little Dragon. She lives in North Attleboro, Massachusetts.