Author: Laura Marx Fitzgerald
Synopsis: 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.
Huge thank you to Dial Books for Young Readers and Razorbill Canada for this ARC!
I love middle grade novels, especially ones that have a lot of quirk and mystery to them. Under the Egg stars young Theo, a girl unraveling the mystery of a painting owned by her deceased grandfather, and this painting turns out to be more than she bargained for.
I read this book in one sitting. The pacing is quick, the story does a great job of grabbing the reader’s attention and the humor that does exist within the story is spot on. I loved Theo and I thought she was utterly delightful to follow around, and I often enjoyed that she seemed like the adult in the relationship with her grad school mother. She managed the money, attended to the chores, she’s a lot more mature than most young ladies her age and I appreciate that this is consistent throughout the story. I also loved the secondary characters, especially Bodhi who really does make a lot of the story with her brattiness. She’s a lovable brat and one that I found I was laughing with throughout.
This book also appealed to the Librarian and tea lover in me. In a lot of ways the reader learns a surprising amount about both subjects without really meaning to. However, this might pose an issue though — while this novel is billed as a middle grade novel, the historical and art history topics are not always handled with that level in mind so sometimes you’d get extra explanation about the subjects and sometimes you don’t. I think having that consistency would have made the novel stronger, or I think it would have helped to have an author’s note that went into a bit more detail about these topics. Art and Art history in particular is not something a lot of middle graders would likely know about, so the accessibility level on the subject I feel could have been a bit better.
However, as a middle grade mystery novel, it’s fantastic. The mystery is at the right level, it takes a bit to piece together and once you do it’s surprisingly rewarding. The mystery aspect really keeps the novel engaging and flowing so quickly that you really don’t realize how fast you’re turning the pages. I really adored this book and I think it’s such a treat for those looking for something a bit more quirky and potentially out of their comfort zone. I think with the right reader too, it could even be a favourite. Laura Marx Fitzgerald has written a touching tale with some truly awesome characters. I was in love from page one.