The boy-and-beetle friendship first introduced in Broach’s charming novel Masterpiece (2010) is now the cornerstone of an illustrated chapter-book series.
James is a boy, and Marvin is a beetle, but with the help of Marvin’s drawing skills, they find a way to communicate. James’ mom worries that her son’s best friend is an insect, but tiny Marvin has the opposite worry—that James will find human friends who supplant him. When James takes off on a beach vacation, Marvin frets even more, but he manages to have a few adventures of his own, like getting trapped inside Mr. Pompaday’s electric pencil sharpener with his beetle cousin Elaine. At first it’s entertaining to frolic among the shavings, but when an unanticipated pencil clogs the exit hole, there’s big trouble. Murphy clearly revels in the Borrowers-style perspective of the beetles’ miniature world: In their under-sink home, Marvin’s drawing table is a die, and a propped-up birthday-cake candle dwarfs the family. The dramatic, blow-by-blow pencil-sharpener incident dominates the story, but it circles back to friendship. James really did miss Marvin after all, and a souvenir seashell (the perfect beetle hideout!) seals the deal.
This winsome series debut is both a sweet story of cross-species friendship and a sobering new way to look at pencil sharpeners. (Fantasy. 6-8)