by Elise Broach

Other authorsKelly Murphy (Illustrator)
Hardcover, 2008

Call number



Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (2008), Edition: First Edition, 304 pages


After Marvin, a beetle, makes a miniature drawing as an eleventh birthday gift for James, a human with whom he shares a house, the two new friends work together to help recover a Durer drawing stolen from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

User reviews

LibraryThing member mad.
This book was cute and had some really intresting things about art and art forgeries. The whole art thing was very clever but the idea of a beetle and his mini paintings wasn't as good. Overall I liked her other book "Shakespeare's Secret" better.
LibraryThing member fvalle89
read for Battle of the Books lit circle. Liked the book and I think that students could definitely get into it. It was nice having a specific role for things to look for. I was the connector and connected it a lot with The Invention of Hugo Cabret and more so Ratatouille. It's very similar in that
Show More
the beetle is the artist but everyone thinks the boy is the artist. There is a huge mystery set up with a stolen painting. It's a fun read.
Show Less
LibraryThing member ohioyalibrarian
Eleven year old James is friends with Marvin, a beetle living in his house. Marvin is an artist and makes wonderful drawings that James' parents wrongly attribute to him. When a famous drawing by Durer is stolen from a museum, James and Marvin find themselves caught in the middle of this mystery.
Show More
Marvin knows who the thief is but can't talk or write to let James know. Does Marvin manage to communicate and help James solve the mystery? Read Masterpiece to find out.

I loved this book until the afternotes when I realized that the famous Durer drawings in the book were fictional. I'm a bit confused about why the author took a real artist, yet made up drawings by that artist. The book made me want to see and find out more about the drawings. I was disappointed when I found out that they did not exist. Still, fans of Chasing Vermeer will love this book.
Show Less
LibraryThing member abbylibrarian
From jacket flap: "Marvin lives with his family under the kitchen sink in the Pompadays' apartment. He is very much a beetle. James lives with his mother, stepfather, and baby brother in New York City. He is very much an eleven-year-old boy. After James gets a pen-and-ink set for his birthday,
Show More
Marvin surprises him by creating an elaborate miniature drawing. James gets all the credit for the picture, and before these unlikely friends know it, they're caught up in an art heist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art..."

This is a funny, quirky mystery story. Elise Broach has created a very endearing family of beetles and, to be honest, I found the beetle characters much more interesting than the mystery. It all wraps up a little too neatly and quickly for my taste. Though parts of the mystery were intriguing, there was never a real show-down at the end, never a real sense of danger or urgency. That said, it's an unusual story and one I will hand to kids looking for a mystery. The art heist in the book will appeal to fans of Chasing Vermeer and I think the quirky tone and animated beetle family will appeal to fans of Roald Dahl.
Show Less
LibraryThing member ConanTheLibr
Not a bad little story. In the line of "art mysteries for kids" a la the Blue Balliet books ([book: The Wright 3], [book: Chasing Vermeer]). This one involves a quartet of 4 (imaginery) Durer etchings. Our hero, James, has a small beetle (Marvin) as his buddy/sidekick, and together they catch the
Show More
art thief. While it's no [book: Stuart Little], the "beetle's eye" perspective is fun.
Show Less
LibraryThing member knielsen83
Unexpectedly, I found myself enjoying this book, whose main character is a beetle who learns that he is an artist. Leaving his drawing out, the human boy living in the house he is in gets credit for the drawing and in turn the pair becomes involved in what seems to be a fake art heist.
LibraryThing member ChristianR
Who knew that beetles were artistic? Marvin is a beetle who lives by the kitchen trash can in James' house. James is lonely, and Marvin befriends him and helps him to foil a plot to steal Albrecht Durer's drawings from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Marvin even helps by creating an amazingly close
Show More
copy of one of Durer's pen and ink drawings. A fun mystery with deeper underlying themes.
Show Less
LibraryThing member 59Square
Broach does a great job of making art theft accessible to young children in this book, through the eyes of a beetle. The beetle, Marvin, is an artist, and the young boy James that he befriends acts like the drawings are his – causing unforeseen circumstances when they go to the Met to see
Show More
Durer’s miniatures which resemble Marvin’s. The theft is explained clearly, and there is no blood and guts ,which is good. Sometimes, though, I wondered if the author was putting too much on a beetle, who was smart, brave, and could communicate without words. Interesting, but a little flawed.
Show Less
LibraryThing member delphica
(#5 in the 2009 Book Challenge)

I loved this book. A beetle living in a New York City apartment takes up pen and ink, or rather claw and ink, drawing, and is so talented at it that his work ends up at the Metropolitan Museum being passed off as an authentic Dürer sketch. It owes a lot to books like
Show More
The Mouse and the Motorcycle and Cricket in Times Square, but it still manages to feel original. I'm always a sucker for details like how the beetle family shares the apartment with a people family, making picnics out of food crumbs dropped by the baby and creating furniture out of tiny lost items. It has very winsome illustrations that give the beetles a lot of personality without making them look too much like cartoons.

Grade: A
Recommended: I think this is a fun book that would be good for reading out loud.
Show Less
LibraryThing member bethdalton
Masterpiece is the charming story of a lonely, overlooked boy, James Pompaday and a young, well-loved beetle, Marvin. On James’ birthday his father gives him a pen-and-ink set. This birthday gift is initially as unwanted as the other carelessly chosen gifts of James’ birthday party guests.
Show More
Marvin decides to create a drawing as a gift for James and Marvin finds that he can create a wonderfully delicate drawing with his legs. Of course, the humans assume that James has created this museum quality drawing, and James now receives the attention that he has craved. His father takes him to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and shows the drawing to the museum curator and to an old friend of his from the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. James and Marvin are drawn into a plot to solve a mystery involving the theft of several Albrecht Dürer drawings. This book weaves mystery, art history, and a story of a unlikely friendship together to create a wonderful tale. Masterpiece has won multiple awards including the E.B. White Read Aloud Award, Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year Award, and it appears on the 2009 American Library Association Notable Children's Books list. This book will appeal to mystery lovers from the ages of 9 to 13.
Show Less
LibraryThing member katitefft
Masterpiece is a good example of modern fantasy because it tells the impossible story of how a friendship forms between a boy and beetle. This friendship develops as a result of a piece of art, which invites the reader into the world of art history, and more specifically, the famous artist Albrecht
Show More
Durer. The information presented in thes book about Durer makes it a good piece of historical fiction as well. Readers will find the friendship to be sweet and likeable, but the mystery element is not nearly as captivating. It took a long time for the height of the mystery to be reached, and by that point the resolution was fairly predictable, While older readers might benefit more from the art history and extensive vocabulary present in this book, the plot may not be strong enough to adequately hold their attention. For younger readers, the plot will be engaging, but the vocabulary and historical information may be far too advanced.
Show Less
LibraryThing member JeSouhaite
A very artistic beetle named Marvin and a boy, James, get caught up in a mystery of stolen artwork, forgery, and a lasting friendship that is unusual to say the least. A fun light romp of a story. Great for fans of Blue Balliett’s Chasing Vermeer, The Wright 3, or The Calder Game.
Ages 9-12
LibraryThing member kikione
Marvin is a very talented beetle. His human friend, James, discovers this talent, but then James' parents think he is the one that creates an art masterpiece. Marvin's ability to copy the work of a master artist, Durer, gets him (and James)involved in an art heist. This is a clever story that will
Show More
introduce students to the world of art museums. The relationship between Marvin and James is strong, but dangerous at times for Marvin. He must make some difficult decisions...whether to help James or do what his parents want him to do.
Show Less
LibraryThing member burke73
This book will make a wonderful read aloud book for my third grade class! It is a great story that has dynamic characters that everyone can connect with. It also has many twists and turns in the plot line that will keep you guessing until the very end. There are a lot of different lessons that I
Show More
could extent with my students about art history, famous artists, etc. I can't wait to read this to my class next year!
Show Less
LibraryThing member LMKatz
Have you every heard of a beetle that was an artist? Marvin, is a special beetle that can turn pictures into works of art. All he has to do is dip his two front legs into ink and he dances around the paper to create a magnificent masterpiece. Marvin the beetle and his beetle family live
Show More
under the kitchen sink of the Pompaday’s apartment in New York City. The beetle family learns everything they need to know by all the TV that the Pompaday family watches, not to mention all the yummy treats that fall on the floor while they watch TV. James Pompaday has just celebrated his 11th birthday and received a drawing kit from his father the artist. Only James doesn’t like to draw. But Marvin does. So one night Marvin sneaks into James room and creates a masterpiece with the ink kit overnight as a birthday present to James. Only everyone thinks James is the artist. This is a story about the insect world and human world colliding as a boy and a beetle are involved in a master plot to steal artwork from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A great fast paced story about stolen art, friendship, forgery that will have you on the edge of your seats until the very last page.
Show Less
LibraryThing member sammarocco
A story about friendship, art and family values. Marvin is a beetle who lives in James' house. They end up becoming friends. James received an ink set for his birthday, which Marvin use to make him a drawing for his birthday. This drawing lead to many adventures and bonded the two together. This
Show More
book would be great to talk to students about friendship, family, values, and art.
Show Less
LibraryThing member katec9999
I picked up this book because I had just finished Elise Broach’s other book, Shakespeare’s Secret, and really enjoyed it. I enjoyed this book just as much, if not more, although it’s quite different from Shakespeare’s Secret. This story is about Marvin, a beetle who lives in the apartment
Show More
of a boy named James in New York City. James is a quiet boy, kind of overwhelmed by his career-driven mother and step-father, and his artist father. Marvin is an adventurous beetle, who loves to explore James’ apartment and swim in his pool, a bottle cap filled with water. One day while exploring, he discovers a pen-and-ink set in James' room. He dips his front legs in the open ink, and starts to draw the scene that he sees out the window. The picture Marvin creates is beautiful, but James’ family thinks that he was the one who drew it. James discovers Marvin’s talent, and they even figure out how to communicate with each other. Their friendship grows as they become involved with helping to solve an art theft at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and during the adventure they both learn the value of honesty.

This is an adorable book. The friendship between James and Marvin is one of the most touching ones I’ve ever read about. Kelly Murphy’s illustrations of Marvin and the pictures he creates are one of my favorite parts of this book. If you like mysteries about art like Chasing Vermeer and the sequels, or books about animals, you’ll love Masterpiece!
Show Less
LibraryThing member pgreenley
This book is based on an interesting idea and could easily connect with art lessons on drawing ad using pen and ink techniques. The discussions of the subtleties of art could be good conversation starters for upper elementary on the expression of even the simplest art.
LibraryThing member RUTHEB
While the plot is unusual it requires our young readers to have no background knowledge to enjoy the story. This makes it a selling point! Dive into another world and enjoy it and learn about artists and New York City.
LibraryThing member Leov
James is given a pen and ink set by his artist father. When Marvin, a beetle, sees James and his unhappy life he decides to draw him a picture to cheer him up. The result is astonishing. When Marvin asks 'Who did this?', Marvin reveals himself to James, and so begins a great friendship. When James'
Show More
father sees the quality of the picture, which James takes the credit for, he takes James to the art gallery and unwittingly involves both James and Marvin in a dangerous art theft mystery. A well written and gripping story about a lonely boy and his little friend, for children aged 7 years up.
Show Less
LibraryThing member ewyatt
Marvin and his family of beetles, live under the sink in the apartment of James' family. When Marvin wants to give James a birthday present he discovers he has an incredible artistic talent. The friends then get involved in a scheme to catch an art thief of Durer line drawings, getting involved in
Show More
the mystery of the international art thefts of a series of paintings know as the Virtues. Cute read about the nature of friendship and art.
Show Less
LibraryThing member KarenBall
Delightfully fun! Marvin is a young beetle, living in the Pompaday's New York apartment kitchen cabinet with his family. Marvin dreams of leaving the apartment and seeing the larger world that is outside the windows, but that terrifies his family. Marvin befriends James, Mrs. Pompaday's older son,
Show More
on his birthday, and gives him the gift of a tiny ink drawing of the scene out James's window. When the drawing is discovered by the adults, James takes credit for it, not quite knowing how to tell that it was a bug that created it! James goes to the Metropolitan Museum with his father to see some very famous drawings like his, and James is asked to create a copy of one to assist in an international art theft sting. Marvin works on the copy, but things don't quite go as planned, and James and Marvin get caught up in all kinds of twists and turns! This is a wonderful story about finding your own talents, trusting your friends, and forgiving their mistakes. The illustrations are as much fun as the story! Mystery, for 6th grade and up.
Show Less
LibraryThing member vanessa6
Talk about having the life of a bug! A beetle at that! After reading this book, it amazed me of their true friendship, especially at the end when James gets his hand slammed in the car door!! He does this to end the lie to the human world that he's an artist. He knew he couldn't tell them that the
Show More
bettle, Marvin, was the artist. Humans think so little of bugs. The author, Elise, uses great words to describe the way their friendship forms, how they communicate together and work together to solve the art theif mystery. Not only does the author use amazing descriptive words, the illustrator, Kelly Murphy, does a fantastic job making miniature pen art within the book. They are so detailed that you can see every crevice on the desk, or every line on Marvin's artwork. However, as detailed as Kelly gets, she doesn't do much details with James. His nose is honestly, a triangle. That's it. Other than that, GREAT!!
Show Less
LibraryThing member adaniel11
Genre: Fantasy
Review: The author does a good job of staying true to the genre of fantasy by creating a believable story that could not happen. This story follows Marvin, a beetle, and the relationship he develops with a human, James. There are many twists and turns in their relationship that are
Show More
true to any relationshop between humans, yet this is a story about a human and a beetle.
Media: Pencil
Show Less
LibraryThing member amygatt
I liked this book a lot. I thought the author wove in the art history in very interesting ways and seemed interested in teaching young readers about art. I think this book gave its readers a lot of credit and sent a positive message about friendship and courage. I also liked that the story was told
Show More
from the perspective of a beetle - the book as a whole felt very unique. At times the action seemed sudden and somewhat far-fetched, especially when they recover the stolen paintings in the apartment. However, I think it was tied together well and kept the reader engaged. I would happily recommend this book to young readers at about the fifth grade level, male and female. I think it teaches while still being relatable and engaging. A lot of kids can relate to parental separation, feelings of disapproval from their parents, and the desire to please their parents, even to the point of lying. I read this book right before I read Herbert's Wormhole, and the two were dramatically different in terms of style - I related to this one a lot more, and Herbert's Wormhole, in contrast, seemed a little mindless.
Show Less


Nebraska Golden Sower Award (Nominee — 2011)
Young Hoosier Book Award (Nominee — Intermediate — 2011)
Triple Crown Awards (Nominee — 2011)
William Allen White Children's Book Award (Nominee — Grades 3-5 — 2010-2011)
Nutmeg Book Award (Nominee — Intermediate — 2012)
Bluestem Award (Nominee — 2016)
Sunshine State Young Reader's Award (Nominee — Grades 3-5 — 2011)
Oregon Reader's Choice Award (Nominee — 2011)
Iowa Children's Choice Award (Nominee — 2012)
Virginia Readers' Choice (Nominee — Elementary — 2011)
Black-Eyed Susan Book Award (Nominee — Grades 4-6 — 2011)
E.B. White Read-Aloud Award (Honor Book — Older Readers — 2009)
Read Aloud Indiana Book Award (Intermediate — 2012)
Idaho Battle of the Books (Elementary — 2019)
Reading Olympics (Middle School — 2024)




0805082700 / 9780805082708
Page: 0.4573 seconds