The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World

E. L. Konigsburg, Author . Atheneum/Seo $16.99 (244p) ISBN 978-1-4169-4972-5

This complex work has all the trappings of vintage Konigsburg: unusually articulate children considering the adult world and trying to stake their claim on it; an art history–related mystery; a headlines-inspired story line; eccentric grown-ups; and, of course, incisive, often brilliant prose. Sad to say, the magic is missing. The action starts off promisingly. Amedeo Kaplan (son of characters met in The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place ) has just moved to coastal Florida and made friends with William Wilcox, son of an estate sale manager (introduced in the story collection Throwing Shadows ). As the boys help William’s mother pack up the palatial home of Amedeo’s next-door neighbor, a larger-than-life retired opera singer, Amedeo finds a signed Modigliani drawing. Because Amedeo has just returned from attending an art exhibit curated by another Outcasts alum, Peter Vanderwaal, on the subject of “degenerate” art (modern art criminalized by the Nazis), Amedeo is primed to uncover the history behind the drawing—a dark provenance that links the retired opera singer, the Vanderwaals and the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam. While the author’s material and style prove as stimulating as ever, her repeated reliance on coincidence weakens the book’s impact. Her tried-and-true fans will forgive these contrivances, but newcomers should not start here. Ages 9-12. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 07/30/2007
Release date: 08/01/2007
Genre: Children's
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