What You Need to Know:|
• Masterpiece is an ALA (American Library Association) Notable Book and the winner of the Bank Street Best
Children’s Book of the Year award.
• The importance of family and the beauty of a solid friendship are key elements that run throughout this story.
• Although this story about an 11 year old boy and a "talking beetle" will appeal to younger readers, the vocabulary
(i.e. assemblage, sequester, chortling, arduous) and writing style are sophisticated and geared toward kids with a
comprehensive knowledge and use of vocabulary.
• Keep a dictionary close by to help those readers not familiar with some of the tougher words. Here’s a link to one
you might try - Merriam-Webster's Intermediate Dictionary.
• Divorce is a subtle but meaningful subplot that will help some children deal with the issue.
• The mystery, although not scary at all, will intrigue young readers.
• I was a little hesitant to read about a bug, but Marvin turned out to be quite cute! Kids will enjoy hearing about his
miniature world and the adventures that go along with being so small.
James is a lonely 11 year-old boy living with his mother, step-father and new baby brother in an apartment in New York City. His mother pays little attention to James and when she does it is mostly for the wrong reasons. His dad is an artist who visits occasionally. For his birthday, his Dad gives him a pen-and-ink set and his life takes a surprising turn.
Little does James know, there is a lot more going on in his apartment than meets the eye. Living under the kitchen sink is a whole family of beetles who are more than aware of the humans they live among. Marvin is a little boy beetle who ventures into James’ room one night, soon after James receives the art set. Marvin discovers that he has some talents of his own. He creates a tiny drawing that gains big attention. Actually, James gets the attention because all of the adults think that he’s the one that did the drawing and he doesn’t have the nerve to correct them. His mother, always looking out for her own interests, wants to sell the drawing – much to Marvin’s horror! For James and his father, the drawing opens up a new dimension to their relationship. His father suggests a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see a famous painting that looks just like the one that James/Marvin drew and the adventure begins.
James, his dad and Marvin become involved in a plot to set up and capture an art thief. Along the way, James learns a bit of art history, makes new friends, witnesses a real theft and helps solve the crime. As the story continues, James and Marvin’s friendship grows, and somehow they find ways to communicate despite the fact that Marvin never actually “speaks” to James. They learn to trust each other and work together to solve a problem. Broach delivers subtle messages about honesty, integrity and relationships that will leave the reader with an understanding they will find helpful in the future when they are faced with their own situations requiring good judgment. I read this book aloud with my own kids and am sure that the story and these characters will stay with them for years to come.
2008, 304 pages
Adventure, Books for Boys, Character/Values, Divorce, Excellent Read-Aloud, Friendship, Mystery, Talking Animals, Urban
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