Illustrator: Kelly Murphy
Discovering an open ink bottle in eleven-year-old James's room one night, Marvin, a young beetle, is overcome with the urge to draw. James's father, an artist, sees the resulting drawing and likens it to the work of Renaissance master Albrecht Dürer. Thinking James is the artist, he whisks James, the drawing, and-unwittingly-Marvin off to the Dürer exhibit at the Met. Then, surprisingly, the curator asks James to make a decoy drawing to help catch a thief with a penchant for stealing Dürers. Fortunately, Marvin is willing to help. Author's note. Black-and-white illustrations.
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JLG Release: Oct 2008
Awards & Honors
2009 E. B. White Read Aloud Award for Older Readers, winner; 2008 Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, Children’s Fiction
Praise & Reviews
Starred or favorable reviews have been received from these periodicals:
Book List, The Horn Book Magazine, The Horn Book Guide^, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly*, School Library Journal*
Junior Library Guild
Marvin can understand James’s every word but isn’t able to speak to him. The book has moments of great tension when Marvin struggles to convey vital information—like the identity of the thief—to his human friend. “Marvin went crazy. He leapt in the air, rolled over, waved all his legs, and spun in a mad circle. Here! Look, James! Now you’ll know!” As the two work out how to communicate, they develop a genuinely touching friendship. Elise Broach tempers this sweetness with some hilariously shudder-inducing moments, such as when Marvin takes a swim in the drinking glass of a man involved in the art heist.
Kelly Murphy’s detailed spot illustrations provide insight into both the human and beetle worlds and add immeasurably to the book. And Marvin himself is adorable!
One can only guess what Albrecht Dürer might have thought of having a beetle’s work compared to his own, but Broach and Murphy make this improbable idea entirely convincing. Kids will fall in love with this irresistible little bug and get swept up in his adventures. They might even become curious about the artist whose drawings Marvin and James strive so hard to protect.
5 1/2" x 8 1/4"
Level 4.8; Points: 8;
Scholastic Reading Counts
Level 6.1; Points: 14;
Potentially Sensitive Areas
Deduce and infer, Fantasy and reality,
Beetles, Helping others, Swimming, Plumbing, Overbearing mothers, Birthdays, Parties, Presents, Drawing, Pride, Danger, Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), Journeys, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Separation, Loyalty, Art reproductions, Art heists, The four virtues, Communication, Picnics, Turtles, Rescues, Divorce, Doing what's right, Thieves, Double crosses, Evidence, Picking locks, Solving crimes, Escapes, Motives, Family, Injuries, Friendship,