Reviews for Masterpiece


Booklist Reviews 2008 September #2
James lives an invisible existence in a grand apartment on the Upper East Side. His mother, busy with her new husband and baby and her climb up the Manhattan social ladder, has little time for him. By contrast, Marvin, a beetle whose overprotective, extended family resides behind James' mother's kitchen, gets more attention than he wants. The two find friendship when James' artist father gives him a pen-and-ink set, and Marvin discovers his talent for drawing, crafting delicate, museum-quality miniatures with his legs. When Marvin and James find themselves embroiled in a plot to steal a Dürer drawing from the Metropolitan Museum, they must find creative ways to communicate to foil the thieves and protect the masterpiece. Murphy's own pen-and-ink spot art reflects the text's 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. Copyright 2008 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2009 Spring
James's eleventh birthday party is so depressing, Marvin, a beetle, can't resist making him a present. The cityscape Marvin draws is mistaken for James's work, leading to an unlikely friendship, and the two are soon embroiled in the world of art forgery and theft. Their derring-do adventures and ethical conundrums grow organically from a remarkable friendship and make for an engrossing story. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2008 #6
As in Broach's earlier novel Shakespeare's Secret, high art, deep intrigue, and warm friendship converge. James's eleventh birthday party is such a depressing affair that Marvin, an extroverted kitchen beetle, can't resist secretly making him a present. The elegant miniature cityscape he draws (with two front legs dipped in ink) is mistaken for James's work, leading the boy and the beetle to form an unlikely (and, on the beetle's part, silent) friendship. Soon the two visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see a show of Albrecht Durer -- whose work Marvin's drawing resembles to an astonishing degree -- and become embroiled in the world of art forgery and theft. Echoes of Selden's Cricket in Times Square, Norton's The Borrowers, Balliett's Chasing Vermeer, and the inimitable E. B. White's Charlotte's Web sound throughout; the derring-do adventures and ethical conundrums the two protagonists face grow organically from a remarkable friendship and make for an engrossing story. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2008 August #1
Eleven-year-old James Terik isn't particularly appreciated in the Pompaday household. Marvin, a beetle who lives happily with his "smothering, overinvolved relatives" behind the Pompadays' kitchen sink, has observed James closely and knows he's something special even if the boy's mother and stepfather don't. Insect and human worlds collide when Marvin uses his front legs to draw a magnificent pen-and-ink miniature for James's birthday. James is thrilled with his tiny new friend, but is horrified when his mother sees the beetle's drawing and instantly wants to exploit her suddenly special son's newfound talents. The web further tangles when the Metropolitan Museum of Art enlists James to help catch a thief by forging a miniature in the style of Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer. Delightful intricacies of beetle life--a cottonball bed, playing horseshoes with staples and toothpicks--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 Marvin's part. Murphy's charming pen-and-ink drawings populate the short chapters of this funny, winsome novel. (author's note) (Fantasy. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2008 August #4

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.)

[Page 74]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2008 October

Gr 4-8-- Broach combines discussion about the art of Albrecht Drer with a powerful tale of friendship in a novel that is entertaining and full of adventure. Marvin is a beetle, and he and his family live in the Manhattan kitchen that belongs to the Pompaday family. When James receives a pen-and-ink drawing set for his 11th birthday, Marvin discovers that he is a bug with artistic talent. Although he can't speak to James, they soon bond in a true interspecies friendship, and their escapades begin. Because of Marvin's wonderful drawing, presumed to be James's work, the boy is recruited to create a fake Drer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art to help trap an art thief. Marvin produces the forgery, but he soon realizes that the original artwork is in danger. Only by placing his life on the line and relying on James's help can he save the masterpiece. Broach's projection of beetle life, complete with field trips to the family's solarium and complex uses of human discards for furniture and meals, is in the best tradition of Mary Norton's The Borrowers (Harcourt, 1953) and similar classic looks at miniature life. Murphy's illustrations add perspective and humor, supporting the detailed narrative. A masterpiece of storytelling.--Beth L. Meister, Milwaukee Jewish Day School, WI

[Page 140]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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