I found Elise Broach’s Masterpiece serendipitously. We’ve been studying Albrect Durer’s art, and I hadn’t been able to find a juvenile biography of the artist. Instead, I found this middle grade adventure novel about James, an 11 year-old boy in NYC, and Marvin, the beetle who lives in his kitchen. Marvin happens to be an incredible artist, and his skills pull the two of them into an art heist involving Durer’s works.
We’ve listened to the book on CD and enjoyed Jeremy Davidson’s reading very much, but I almost wish we ‘d read it so that we could see Murphy’s illustrations.
The book talks a lot about virtue, specifically the four cardinal virtues frequently depicted in Renaissance art: Prudence, Justice, Temperance and Fortitude. I really enjoyed that discussion, and while a lot of it went right over the kids’ heads, some of it is still jangling around in their minds. I can hear it.
This is another great example of a living book which can serve as a teacher. Broach weaves an incredible amount of art knowledge into this beetle-and-boy story, and my kids didn’t even realize they were learning. As we listened, one the kids shouted, “Mommy! Did you hear– that’s the same artist we’re studying! Can we look at that drawing he did?” They had no idea I had picked the book on purpose. Five stars from us… or twelve thumbs up.