The Miniature World of Marvin and James

Elise Broach, illus. by Kelly Murphy. Holt/Ottaviano, $15.99 (112p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9190-8
Broach and Murphy bring back James and his beetle best friend, Marvin—previously seen in 2008's acclaimed Masterpiece—in this first book in the Masterpiece Adventures series of chapter books. Their cross-species friendship is just right for a younger crowd, and so are the insecurities and frustrations Marvin is feeling as James prepares to go on a trip to the beach without him (“Marvin does not want to help James pack. But at least it is something they can do together"). James leaves in the first chapter and doesn't return until the fifth and final one; while he's away, Marvin goes exploring with his cousin Elaine, a journey that takes a genuinely harrowing turn when they get stuck in Mr. Pompaday's mechanical pencil sharpener. Murphy's pen-and-ink illustrations shift from glee to horror as she shows the bug-eyed beetles cannonballing into the soft pit of pencil shavings, only to have their escape route plugged by a pencil. Despite the simplicity of Broach's pared-down sentences, the story brims with both emotion and moments of quiet wisdom. Ages 6–9. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 03/24/2014
Release date: 02/01/2014
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