MasterpieceJames is having a really terrible 11th birthday. His mom has invited kids he doesn’t even know to his birthday party. All James really wants is for his father to come and finally, at the end, he does – bringing with him a pen and ink drawing set as a gift.

Observing all of this from the safety of a very tiny hiding place is Marvin, a beetle that lives in the kitchen cupboard. Marvin has watched the awful birthday party and the sad look on James’ face. Marvin is determined to give James a really good birthday present, and so he does. Late that night, he uses the pen and ink set to draw James a miniature picture, a perfect miniature picture of the scene outside James’s bedroom window. The picture is perfect down to the last tiny detail – it’s a masterpiece.

James thinks the picture is brilliant and is even happier discovering that he has a beetle-sized friend. James’s happiness turns to dismay, however, when his mother assumes James drew the picture. Things get really complicated when James is recruited to forge a Drurer drawing for the Metropolitan Museum of Art so that art thieves will be tricked into stealing a fake. The problem – James can’t draw! With Marvin safely tucked into his pocket, the two new friends set out for a real adventure at the Museum of Art. The boy and the beetle happen to see things no one else seems to notice. Things even get dangerous because the art theives are closer than anyone thinks. Author: Elise Broach

If you like The Mouse and the Motorcycle or Stuart Little – this is another great story between a human/animal pair, this time, a boy and a bug. And even though beetles have a lot of legs and scurry and are generally not liked, Marvin is a great character. He’s a funny, lovable beetle-friend for James. And he’s great at observation – he has to be if he doesn’t want stepped on!

Here are some great art mysteries too – try these:

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  1. Staff Recommend: Ginny Noble, Collection Development

    Marvin the beetle has a considerable talent! With his tiny legs dipped in ink, he can create amazing reproductions of Durer art miniatures. Eleven-year-old James is a quiet boy with no discovered talents who could truly use a friend. Together, they help capture a cunning thief and restore a stolen masterpiece to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This satisfying and informative chapter book is not only for art lovers but also for anyone who may be curious about the secret lives of beetles living behind the kitchen sink.

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