Reviewed by Allison Fraclose for TeensReadToo.com
Marvin lives with his family behind the wall underneath the kitchen sink of the Pompadays' New York apartment. Although the young beetle and his relatives try to help the Pompadays in little tasks, like fixing the thermostat and retrieving a lost contact lens, they know all too well the danger that exists for them simply by being beetles in the world of humans.
Marvin, however, feels a kinship with James Pompaday, and he is determined to find a satisfactory present for the boy's eleventh birthday, especially since the rest of the boy's day ended up such a disappointment. For James - whose ambitious mother invited the children of clients as his guests and whose artist father showed up for only a few moments near the end to deliver an ink-and-pen set as a present, when James has no interest in art - his birthday ended up exactly as he had known it would. As the oldest son in a blended family, he often finds himself passed over and ignored.
All of that changes thanks to Marvin. While delivering the beetles' gift of a buffalo nickel, Marvin, on a whim, draws a teeny, tiny picture of the view from James's bedroom window with the ink that James received from his father. When James awakens and discovers the tiny beetle's masterpiece, Marvin takes a chance and reveals himself to the boy.
Astounded, James realizes that the work is Marvin's, and although the two can't speak or communicate, their bond of friendship will take them through a mystery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The adults, under the impression that the tiny drawing is the work of James, ask the boy to copy a famous work by artist Albrecht D'rer. One of a set of four, the rest of the collection has disappeared at the hands of an art thief, and, with a plan to have James's forgery stolen instead, they hope to recover the rest of the stolen art. However, Marvin is the real artist, and his parents forbid him to get involved. It is up to Marvin to decide how important his friendship with James is, and how important art is to him.
Chock-full of artful conversations and historical tidbits regarding the Renaissance era, MASTERPIECE is a masterpiece that blends several storylines and character motivations into a wonderfully deep work. Fans of "small world" stories, such as THE CRICKET IN TIMES SQUARE and THE BORROWERS, will delight in Marvin's relationships with the complicated worlds around him, and how he manages to cross the line to affect both for the better.