Saturday, August 30, 2008

Review of Masterpiece by Elise Broach

Masterpiece by Elise Broach (Henry Holt, September 2008)
Marvin, a young beetle, lives with his family in the wall behind the kitchen sink of the Pompaday’s New York City apartment. When 11-year-old James Pompaday gets a pen-and-ink set from his dad, Marvin tries it out, masterfully sketching the scene outside James’ window. Within pages, James (who all the adults think created this amazing masterpiece) is enlisted to make an exact copy of a tiny Durer sketch, so that it can be “stolen” and then tracked to the folks who have been dealing in other stolen Durer drawings. Only James knows that it’s Marvin who is the real artist, and when the plot goes wrong and the real Durer is stolen, they track down the thief.

Even if you accept the beetle-as-prodigy premise (and, as a big fan of The Cricket in Times Square, I do!), this plot strains credulity at many points. However, Marvin is an insightful little bug, the writing is breezy, the plot moves along in a sprightly manner, and the drawings by Kelly Murphy are charming.

For grades 4 to 6.

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