Masterpiece by Elise Broach

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Masterpiece by Elise Broach

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A good and engaging look at an adventure in the art world, despite the slightly cloying feel at times, and the unusual combination of heroes.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: January 2010
Publisher: Walker Books
ISBN: 978-1406321838

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Marvin and his family are a kindly bunch. They even get him to go down inside the bathroom sink drainpipe to retrieve a missing contact lens. This is not so difficult when you're a small kind of beetle like Marvin. But when they worry about the standard of birthday presents given to James, the boy of the human family that have unwittingly fostered them, things get very unpredictable. Marvin sees James being given a pen and ink sketching set, and when trying to deliver a special coin to James, falls into making a sketch himself of the view outside the window. A sketch James could never have created - an ink masterwork that makes far too many adult human eyes bulge with surprise, delight - and possibly greed.

I saw an awkward patch with this book a bit too early for my liking - the first two chapters regarded the sink adventure, which we are told was the real-life inspiration for the whole thing, and I assumed the book wanted to get into a twee collection of linked episodes regarding the bug and the boy. Not at all - if I'd had the simple patience to get beyond the first few pages I would have had no cause for concern. Once James opens out in front of our eyes as another main hero, and he and Marvin can interact, we settle into a very winsome and engaging story of surprising adventures for the beetle, educative art lessons for James, and many scrapes when the talent gets known by others.

I did enjoy the concept, but if anything it didn't quite work as completely successfully as it should. I think it boils down to something to do with the balance between boy and bug, something in the different scale of their individual outlooks. It tends to lean towards being Marvin's story, and so the reader (probably likely to be something like an eight year old, and presumably a human) is supposed to root for the beetle and not the human character as much. Marvin in the end adopts James, more or less, and helps him out, and still has more to do.

If there were to be a sequel things might be a little more easy, in that the partners-in-solving-crime could be more of a matched pair, having come to the understanding and friendship we see forming so charmingly and reasonably (and reasonably realistically) here. And despite my saying it wasn't an outstanding success – it doesn't match its title, at least – it does on the whole provide very warm entertainment, and I can see people wishing for further adventures in the series.

I should end by saying that no attempt has been made to edit out the Americanisms for the British youngsters, which always makes me slightly cross, but I don't think this is too much of a handicap here.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

If beetles are your child's thing, then we enjoy Beetle Power! (Bug Buddies) by Joe Miller and the others in the series for a quick read.

Buy Masterpiece by Elise Broach at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Masterpiece by Elise Broach at

Buy Masterpiece by Elise Broach at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Masterpiece by Elise Broach at


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