If you're a regular reader here, you might have noticed we've sort of had an art theme going on all summer. That's been due in large part to the our choice of Laura Marx Fitzgerald's Under the Egg for our summer family read-aloud.
When Theodora Tenpenny spills a bottle of rubbing alcohol on her late grandfather’s painting, she discovers what seems to be an old Renaissance masterpiece underneath. That’s great news for Theo, who’s struggling to hang onto her family’s two-hundred-year-old townhouse and support her unstable mother on her grandfather’s legacy of $463. There’s just one problem: Theo’s grandfather was a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and she worries the painting may be stolen. - Goodreads.com
I came across the title while searching for children's books on the Monument Men, after starting off the summer listening to the audio version of Robert M. Edsel's The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and The Greatest Treasure Hunt in History.
I was pleasantly surprised to find a middle grade, fictional novel on the subject (which conveniently for me, doesn't mention the Monuments Men until well past the middle of book, leaving plenty of time for the children to get hooked into the story, before they realized my plan). Throw in the fact, that it is marketed as a mix between Chasing Vermeer and From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and has a secondary character who is an unschooler, and of course we were going to read it.
It is very much a middle grade story, meaning the plot is not without holes, some of the dialogue is on the gritty side, and I do think the rap up was a bit rushed, as if the author had grown tired of the story, and instead of completing it, just told us what happened. However, with that said, there is a lot that we appreciated about the story:
- There is a mystery to be solved.
- The Italian Renaissance in general, and Raphael in specific, feature heavily through the pages.
- It's a great book to read with the computer standing by for quick look ups of places, people, and artwork.
- There are countless jumping off points for further learning, venturing from art, to history, to science, to geography, to theology, to math, to...you name it.
- There is an unschooled character. I know I mentioned that already - but really! In fact, not only is there an unschooled character, who is not the main character - she's a normal girl, who loves learning, but in an enthusiastic, curious about the world kind of way, rather than in an in-your-face, I'm a homeschooled geek kind of way.
- The characters are not Christian at all, but interact with Christians in a positive way.
- The author has a discussion guide, further resources, and hands on project suggestions on her website.
- The writing is age appropriate without "dumbing down" the vocabulary.
- The entire family enjoyed the story.