Masterpiece by Elise Broach

MasterpieceMarvin is a beetle living in the same New York apartment as some materialistic and shallow humans.  Sensitive, thoughtful James is the son of the shallow mother, by a previous marriage of hers.  The whole family of beetles has watched for years and feels sympathy for poor James, yet there was never supposed to be species fraternization.  James’ 11th birthday and the pen and ink drawing set he receives become the catalyst for boy beetle Marvin to delicately create an exquisite, tiny drawing and then reveal himself to James as the artist.  All goes haywire from there because James’ mother enters the scene, snatches the drawing, proclaiming to the world the phenomenal talents of her son.  Everything escalates.  James’ artist father sees the similarity of the intricate drawing to those of artist Albrecht Durer.  A trip to a Durer exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art soon becomes more than just a fun day to show the similarities in drawings. Now a curator gets James and his dad aside to make a plea for James’ help with an elaborate plan to catch an art thief. That plan involves a planted forgery, and therefore, it involves Marvin’s secret talents once again.  Oh, what a tangled web we weave …

I liked this story of intriguing plot, miniature worlds, secret friendships, hidden lives, beetles with human characteristics, art appreciation of an artist I never knew, many pen and ink hatchings by illustrator Kelly Murphy  evocative of Durer’s work, and also many discussion points about honesty and truth, art and beauty, friendship and forgery.  I recommend this book for 5th grade and up.

Posted by: Fran D.

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