Saturday, November 15, 2014

Book Review: Under the Egg, by Laura Marx Fitzgerald

It was the find of the century.

Or so I thought at the time.

This was back when a great day meant finding a toaster oven on the curb with a sign reading WORKS GOOD. Or scoring a bag of day-old danishes (slightly stale), which taste like heavena fter months of plain oatmeal.

Manhattan's treasures are't hard to find. You just have to look.

This novel was a fun read - a mystery story combined with themes of friendship and others. I've read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, admittedly a long time ago, and the book claims it as influence in its synopsis; I do remember that Mrs. Basil was a mystery of sorts too, and this novel included some historical events as well.

Official synopsis:
Under the Egg book review
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler meets Chasing Vermeer in this clever middle grade debut.

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.

With the help of some unusual new friends, Theo's search for answers takes her all around Manhattan, and introduces her to a side of the city—and her grandfather—that she never knew. To solve the mystery, she'll have to abandon her hard-won self-reliance and build a community, one serendipitous friendship at a time.


To put it nicely, Theodora and her mother are broke. Her grandfather has recently passed away, and the only money they have - about $400 - is the cash he left them. Her mother is not well in the head, and spends most of her days trying to prove "theorums."

Theo finds out that her grandfather served in the armed forces, as they receive a letter saying his pension will be discontinued now that he has died, but doesn't know anything more about it. She also finds a very old painting, by accident - she spills a bottle of rubbing alcohol on it, and the masterpiece under the painted-over canvas starts to emerge.

Because her grandfather used to work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (aka the Met, in NYC), she thinks the painting might be stolen. With the help of a new Hollywood friend, Bodhi, they investigate the painting's origins, and enlist local neighborhood people to help; however, Theo must hide the painting's existence from her grandfather's former boss at the Met, who knows something is up and keeps sniffing around her house.

This was an easy read and also an interesting mystery. We find out that Theo's grandfather, Jack, had some secrets that he never revealed, which are also wrapped up in the painting's origins. Theo makes a new friend, too, Bodhi, who is very curious about the painting, and the two of them scour Manhattan to try and find out how Jack came to "acquire" it and also who it rightly belongs to now.

I'd recommend this story for anyone who likes a good mystery, or even a good story, actually. It's also classified as a "middle-grade debut," and I'd rate it as G or PG in terms of content; it's appropriate for ages 10-12+, I would say.

4 stars out of 5.
{To buy this book, click here}

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

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