Name of Book: Masterpiece
Author: Elise Broach
Illustrator: Kelly Murphy
Audience: Ages 9 – 12
Summary: James lives in a Manhattan apartment where he is pretty much ignored by his mother and stepfather until after he receives a pen and ink set his artist father gives him as a birthday present. James’s mother finds a drawing she thinks James drew which is extraordinarily like an Albrecht Dürer masterpiece. In actuality the drawing was done by Marvin, a house beetle whose overprotective family lives in James’ kitchen cabinet. When James and Marvin begin an unexpected partnership, they find themselves in a plot to forge a Dürer drawing, for the Metropolitan Museum curator. Their intent is to capture an international art thief. They are able to solve a mystery, retrieve missing priceless art, and find the truest treasure- friendship.
Literary elements at work in the story: This is a modern fantasy written in humorous third person from the perspective of a house beetle. The characters find creative ways to communicate as different scenarios are created throughout the book. A suspenseful plot, including art history, theft, and a complex family relationship within the human family as well as the beetle family, are presented by the author to engage the reader. The illustrations are black and white line drawings done in pen and ink, shown throughout the book. They are loosely drawn interpretations of old master works that they reference in the book, as well as drawings depicting settings between the characters throughout the book.
(How) does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? This story is a blend of factual art history, mystery and intrigue, and a intermixing of characters that are from high economical backgrounds to bugs that live in a kitchen cabinet. The story written from the perspective of the beetle brings a new view on daily living of these two families and how they are intertwined and reliable, whether they know it or not.
Theology: Honesty. The definition of honesty given in the Webster dictionary is anyone characterized by or exhibiting truthfulness and integrity. In the Bible honesty is trustworthiness, morality, decency, sincerity. The basic component of honesty is truth. But honesty goes beyond truthtelling and comprehends what is right and lawful. (Proverbs 12:22) Honesty defines character and proves that one is trustworthy. (Luke 16:10) This is important because truthfulness is such a highly regarded mark of character that Christians cannot stress its importance too much.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Have you ever heard the quote”Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive?” How does this relate to the story? How do you think James felt after not telling the truth when people thought he drew the pictures?
- Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight, Proverbs 12:22 (NRSV). If you told a lie for the good of others, is it still a lie? Does it matter what the size or situation is?
- Marvin found that he had a hidden talent or gift. Have you found a hidden gift yourself? In 1 Corinthians there is a list for you to look as a reference. Are there any that you can recognize now?
- There are many different family dynamics in this story. Did you notice that even though the boys were dishonest with their parents, they knew that they were loved? No matter what you do God loves you. God will be at your side through good times and bad. Have you ever experienced this love after you have told a lie? Can you briefly tell us about it?
- What are other examples from Bible stories do you remember about honesty and dishonesty? How did God react to these stories?
This review was written by Union Presbyterian Seminary student Cyndi Beerbower.
Masterpiece by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.