Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Masterpiece, again!

Holly reviewed Masterpiece by Elise Broach right here. I agree with everything she said, but I so enjoyed the book that I wanted to add my two cents.

Elise Broach is amazingly creative, truly gifted with originality. When I started Masterpiece, I thought, "Oh, dear. I think I may be too old to suspend disbelief for a protagonist who is a beetle." But Broach somehow makes it work, and Marvin is a delightfully sympathetic character, a beetle who doesn't quite fit in his family. He is too curious, too interested in the world outside, too enamored of the human way of life, and when he discovers a stunning talent, he is further torn between the human and beetle worlds. His sympathy for James, whose father is mostly absent and whose mother ignores him until Marvin's drawings give her something to brag about to her associates, is believable and sweet. Though his communication with James is limited by their huge differences, they manage to work together. Neither fits in, and Marvin's artistic talent brings them together. On top of this sweet two-fish-out-of-water story is a major art world mystery. Who has been stealing pen-and-ink drawings by Durer, and is James's (really Marvin's) talent for drawing the key to unmasking the thief? Every aspect of this story is wildly improbable, but Broach pulls it off. Both the friendship between James and Marvin and the complicated mystery are fun to read, and the art history aspect adds an extra dimension that could interest children in the arts. Highly, highly recommend.

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