Read On!

Mrs. Farquharson’s musings about books for children and young adults

From the Archives

May21

I was exploring my blog and reading posts that I wrote when I first started writing it. I was interested to see which of my recommendations had withstood the test of time. My third entry in April 2009 was about a novel, Masterpiece by Elise Broach. Yes! I still love this book, and I still recommend it for our intermediate readers. This led me off on a tangent to immerse myself in Broach’s work. Check out her website to see the variety of books that she has written – more intermediate level novels as well as some for middle school readers, an early reader series based on Masterpiece, picture books, and board books. As you are looking for summer reading for all ages, do check out Elise Broach.

Here’s my “vintage” review with a wee bit of editing:

Elise Broach has written her own masterpiece and given it that title. Masterpiece is one of the best books for our middle elementary school children (students in grades three, four, and five) that I’ve read this year. I couldn’t put the book down, as I cheered on the main character, Marvin, a young beetle who lives with his family in a New York City apartment. His beetle family resides under the kitchen sink, and they keenly observe the daily events in the lives of the human family who live in the apartment. The beetles are especially sympathetic to James, whose feelings and interests his mother and stepfather often overlook. When James’s birthday is definitely not a happy event, Marvin decides that he must give James a special gift, and he sketches a drawing using an ink set that James’s artist father gave him as a gift. When his family members believe that James created the tiny detailed painting, he is overwhelmed by the attention and doesn’t deny it. James learns about Marvin’s skill, and although they can’t speak to each other, they learn to communicate in other ways. As I read this book, I became interested in learning more about the German artist, Albrecht Durer, since he is featured in an important exhibit that the characters visit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

All of the details that I’ve described only set up the main plotline which involves a famous painting, an art heist, but most of all true friendship.

Masterpiece reminds me of George Selden’s beloved classic, The Cricket in Times Square. The books exhibit the same suspension of reality, as the reader believes in the fantasy worlds that bring insects to life. On the flap of The Cricket in Times Square, one reviewer describes Selden’s book in a way that is fitting to write of Broach’s Masterpiece. “Every once in a while a story is told, ostensibly for children, which captures so perfectly the imaginative realm in which even children are permitted to dwell only for a time, that the adult world must stop and listen too.” These words perfectly describe the experience that I enjoyed reading both of these books.

Some of our fourth and fifth graders have also enjoyed Elise Broach’s novel, Shakespeare’s Secret. While the plot of this book is current and realistic, the author interested a few of us enough to look for more information about William Shakespeare. Elise Broach’s writing tends to do that to you.

 

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