Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



Elise Broach
Illustrator:  Kelly Murphy 
For ages 10 and up
Henry Holt and Co., 1969   ISBN: 978-0805082708

James is an eleven year old boy who lives with his mother, his step-father, and his baby brother in an apartment in New York City. Marvin is a young beetle who lives in the cabinet under James's kitchen sink. Marvin and his family are very fond of James and they feel for the boy when they see that James' birthday has been rather a disappointment. Determined to try to cheer James up, Marvin creates a tiny drawing for the boy using the new pen and ink set that James' father gave him for his birthday.

The miniature drawing that Marvin creates is quite beautiful and it delights James. James is thoroughly amazed when he discovers who the artist is, and he makes it quite clear that he wants Marvin to be his friend, even if they can't communicate in the usual way. James' parents are amazed when they see what they think is their son's creation. Of course James can't tell them that a little beetle was the artist. No one would believe him.

Because the drawing looks so much like the work of Albrecht Durer, James' father takes James to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see some of the artist's other works. They take Marvin's drawing with them, and Marvin is also present, carefully hidden in James' pocket.

While they are looking at the artwork James and his father meet Christina Balcony who works at the museum. When she sees Marvin's drawing she is amazed. It's resemblance to Durer's work gives her an incredible idea – one which will involve James and Marvin in an extraordinary adventure.

In this wonderful book Elise Broach not only tells a riveting story, but she also explores the nature of friendship, the value of art, and the idea that there are times when it is important to do the right thing even if one is scared. James, and especially little Marvin, dare to do what they think is right, even though the consequences could be unpleasant.

With great skill Elise Broach gets inside the minds and hearts of her young heroes, showing her readers how special the connection between the two is. She also shows us how art does much more than please the eye, it also moves the heart, and it makes people see the world through enlightened eyes.