Sunday, August 14, 2011


by Elise Broach
August 2011

This was a cute, sweet book about a beetle and a boy. As it began, it reminded me of books like Stuart Little or A Cricket in Times Square. I would have been happy if the entire story had taken place in the Manhattan apartment of James and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Pompaday. Marvin, a beetle, lives with his family behind the walls of the Pompaday's apartment. The humans don't know of the beetles' existence and the beetles know how to keep out of the way of the humans.

But then Marvin makes one life changing decision. He tries out Marvin's new ink and pen, given to him by his father for his birthday. Actually, he doesn't use the pen. With his little beetle legs he draws a small and intricate drawing of the view out of James' bedroom window. The beetle is discovered by James who is delighted. The drawing is discovered by James' mother, stepfather and father. James' father thinks that the drawing looks a lot like an Albrecht Durer drawing. So he takes him to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see an actual Durer.

James is asked to draw a copy of a Durer called "Fortitude" to use as a decoy painting in a plan to fool some art thieves. Marvin (who has hitched a ride in James' jacket pocket) obliges and makes a near perfect copy of the Durer. From there the story turns into an art heist adventure.

It was a fun story, and exciting at moments. James devises a way to make the parents forget about James' amazing artistic talents. Marvin finds a way to satisfy his need for artistic expression without revealing his presence to the rest of the humans.

Hopefully Elise Broach will write another Marvin and James story, but I hope she doesn't feel the need to continue the art theme. To me, it was the weakest part of the book. In order to teach her readers about Albrect Durer, Broach had her characters spend a chapter talking about Durer: who he was and why we should care. It reminded me of an episode of Quincy M.E.

Expert: "Like any artist, Durer put his life everywhere in his work. These drawings were a
response to his own sadness and lonliness"

Quincy, M.E. (nodding head) "Is that right?"

And like Criminal Minds the three art experts take turns explaining Durer and his art to James, as if they'd practiced their lines ahead of time.

That was really the only chapter that annoyed me. Broach didn't seem to be talented enough to weave information about Albrecht Durer into the plot.

I listened to this book. The narrator, Jeremy Davison, was very good.

1 comment:

KCM said...

hmm. It does seem like he was really "inspired" by Cricket in Times Square.