Title. Elise Broach; Henry Holt and Co., 2008

Grade Level: 3-5

ISBN & Cost: 0805082700, $11.55


©2008, used by permission of Henry Holt and Company



Marvin is a beetle living with his family in a cupboard in an apartment in Manhattan. Marvin decides one evening to draw a picture for James, the eleven year old boy who lives in the apartment, as a birthday present. The painting will create a special friendship between the two, and lead them on an adventure full of excitement and danger in the world of art. They will work together to try and foil a plot to steal a real life art masterpiece.


General Review: 

Marvin and James become close friends that really care about the other's happiness and well being. Students will enjoy the extraordinary friendship that develops between Marvin and James, and the page turning adventures throughout the book. They will sympathize with James' family issues which include divorce and social pressures. Students will also appreciate the resourcefulness of Marvin and his beetle family in utilizing the leftovers and trash from a human family for their own needs. Masterpiece incorporates lessons of art and art history throughout the story. Broach's characters are very realistic and humorous, and the last page of each chapter makes you eager to start the next.

Themes: Art, friendship, divorce, art history, art theft, museums, Artists -- Juvenile fiction. ; Beetles -- Juvenile fiction. ;Human-animal relationships -- Juvenile fiction. ;  
Art thefts -- Juvenile fiction. ; Families -- New York (State) -- New York -- Juvenile fiction. ;Mystery and detective stories.; Dürer, Albrecht, 1471-1528 -- Juvenile fiction. ; New York (N.Y.) -- Juvenile fiction.  


Author information: According to the author's website, Mrs. Broach lives with her family in the woods of Connecticut and likes to eat chocolate chips and drink tea while writing. You can read more fun facts about her at: Some of the other books she has written are: Shakespeare's Secret, Desert Crossing, and

Wet Dog! 



Discussion Questions: (Standard 3; Benchmark 3)

  1. Marvin had no idea he was a great artist until he drew his first sketch. What are your talents and when did you discover you had them?
  2. Do you have a favorite artist? If so, who is it and why?
  3. James took credit for Marvin's artwork. What were the consequences?
  4. Name some of the ways Marvin and James demonstrated “true” friendship towards each other.



1. Do research on an artist of your choosing. Write a report that includes a biography of the artist, a list of their famous pieces, and description of their type of art. (Standard 1, Benchmark 5)

2. Follow the Getty lesson plan, Reading Stories in Art at: which demonstrates how artists tell stories through their art. (Standard 5. Benchmark 3.Create an art project that portrays a scene or character in Masterpiece. (Standard 5, Benchmark 3)


Similar Books for Further Reading :

Shakespeare's Secret by Elise Broach

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett