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Under the Egg Hardcover – March 18, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 4–7—Before dying, Jack, Theodora's grandfather, whispers, "There's a letter… And a treasure" hidden "under the egg." After his passing, Theo could certainly use a treasure; her absentminded mother hides herself away on the top floor of their dilapidated Greenwich Village townhouse while the 13-year-old struggles to make ends meet with the $463 that Jack left. Hanging above the mantelpiece is one of her late grandfather's paintings which depicts a large egg. Could a treasure be hiding underneath? An accident with a bottle of rubbing alcohol reveals an unusual image that sets the teen off on an art history adventure taking her from New York Public Library's Jefferson Market branch to a fancy Upper East Side auction house and to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Along the way, she befriends Bodhi, the jet-setting, paparazzi-hounded daughter of two celebrities; Reverend Cecily from Grace Church; and a punk-rock librarian named Eddie. Fitzgerald gets the Manhattan setting pitch-perfect; from the rich aroma of a roasted nut stand to the hushed hallways of the Met. While the mystery unwinds at an even pace through most of the book, the last few chapters conclude too quickly and readers may be disappointed in the all-too-convenient ending. Still, fans of Blue Balliett's Chasing Vermeer (Scholastic, 2004) and Elise Broach's Masterpiece (Holt, 2008) will enjoy this art caper.—Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Following her grandfather’s death, 13-year-old Theo shoulders the responsibility of looking after her mentally unfocused mother and keeping their Greenwich Village household running with no income. When Theo uncovers an old painting, possibly an original Raphael, she hopes to save their home. But is it a Raphael? Why was it hidden under a layer of paint? Was it stolen? By her beloved grandfather?! Theo and her friend Bodhi begin investigations that lead them to a church, an auction house, the public library, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Center for Jewish History, and two Holocaust survivors. Theo’s household is vividly portrayed, from her grandfather’s creative ingenuity to her mother’s tenuous hold on reality. Smart and determined, down-to-earth and insightful, Theo makes an engaging narrator as she follows a winding trail of discovery. Along the way, Fitzgerald includes a good bit of art history, which becomes as interesting as the interplay between the two friends. In the end, the mystery’s solution depends a bit too much on adult intervention, coincidence, and even amnesia to be wholly satisfying. Still, it’s a riveting narrative. Readers who loved E. L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1967) and Blue Balliett’s Chasing Vermeer (2004) won’t want to put this one down. Grades 4-7. --Carolyn Phelan

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 790L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Dial Books (March 18, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803740018
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803740013
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,855 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

What a marvelous story!
Martha C. Pulrang
Great story, blends bits of history, mystery, and an interesting turn at the end.
They also did their share of helping adults along the way.
up late

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A. Moore on March 18, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The other reviewer gave so much info about the book so I'll be brief and just say that this is one of my newest favorite books and I cannot wait to recommend it to the students that I work with! I can see this one becoming a ' classic' along with 'From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. basil E. frankwiler'. If you know any 8-12 year olds this would be perfect for them...especially if they like mysteries :)
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Lloc on May 27, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This was a very engaging children's story about a girl, Theo, who finds herself caring for herself and her mother (who is wrapped up in her own mathematical mind and is out of touch with day-to-day life) on a scant amount of money. She, with the help of her new friend, attempt to solve a mystery in order to change her fortune. The mystery is very interesting, deals with the world of art, and the clues are uncovered at a comfortable pace. The book has a lot of energy. I only had two issues with the book in pre-reading it for a child. The first is a description of the artist Raphael. Here's a quotation - "Raphael was a very amorous person, delighting much in women.' He strung along an engagement to the niece of a powerful cardinal for seven years while he fooled around with his mistress, even refusing to finish the pope's frescoes unless she was brought to his villa for 'inspiration.' Vasari records his early death at thirty seven as due to "sexual excess"..." Not real thrilled with this level of detail on Raphael's life in a children's book. The book also deals with the holocast on a certain level - no concerns there, but it's the sort of topic that you'd want to have introduced to your child before having them read it in a book. It's not obvious that the book delves into that topic from reading the back cover. The ending was slightly contrived, but it's forgivable in a children's book. Due to the sensitive topic of the holocast, this fun, enjoyable mystery may be best suited for 11-12 year olds at the youngest.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on March 25, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Let me ask you a question. You seem like an intelligent individual. Have you ever read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler? And, if your answer is yes, did you love it? At the very least, do you remember it? I think it fair to say that for significant portions of the population the answer to both these questions would be yes. But before we go any further, consider for a moment precisely WHY you love the book. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that it’s most probable that what you remember from the title was the whole kids-running-away-to-live-in-a-museum aspect. What you might have forgotten was that there was also a mystery at the heart of the book. The mystery had to do with a statue and had a solution that, let’s face it, was a bit contrived for its young audience. If you ever felt that Konigsburg could have done better in the whole solving-an-art-mystery department, allow me to lead you by the elbow over here to where I’m showing off my latest delight Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald marks a strong debut, daring to take the reader from contemporary New York City to WWII and back again without breaking so much as a sweat. It’s gutsy and ambitious by turns,

Things could be better. A lot better. When Theodora’s grandfather Jack was alive, the family didn’t have a ton of money but at least they got by pretty well on his salary as a guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was after Jack died in a freak accident that things took a downward slide. With a mother incapable of dealing with reality (and addicted to pricey tea), Theo knows their money is coming to an end. Soon they won’t have enough to live on. It's when things look particularly dire that Theo accidentally spills rubbing alcohol on one of her grandfather’s favorite paintings.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Kendra on March 20, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It's been a long time since I've sat down and read a book in one day. I was so pleased with this book. It was thoughtful and smart. I taught 8th grade Language Arts for fourteen years and it was always difficult to find novels for that age group that had an age appropriate story line and tone, but also a vocabulary that was challenging and not at all dumbed down. Under the Egg is just about perfect. Yes the ending might be too neat and tidy, but it was also a satisfying surprise. And yes there are loose ends never addressed. I was left still worrying for Theo's mother. But there are also many positive adult role models. I was very happy to see the inclusion of a female Episcopal priest. If I were still in the classroom, I would choose this for a class read. It has a fast paced central mystery and presents a side to the Holocaust that doesn't get the attention it should in the middle school classroom. A great book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sara VINE VOICE on March 18, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Renaissance secrets, World War II tragedy, and present day drama build to an unforgettable crescendo in Laura Marx Fitzgerald’s middle grade debut starring Theodora Tenpenny, an intelligent, self-reliant girl who stumbles upon a mystery that spans decades, continents, and oceans.

When Theodora, startled by an unexpected rodent, spills rubbing alcohol on her late grandfather’s painting, she discovers the unimaginable. Beneath the innocuous painting of an egg, Theodora finds what appears to be a Renaissance masterpiece. Excitement and worry war within Theodora; her grandfather’s sudden death left Theo and her mother with a mere $463 and a mysterious message to “look under the egg” to the Tenpenny name, which is not enough to keep their ramshackle house standing, nor to keep them in food for any length of time. Theo’s mother spends her days lost in mathematic formulas and theorems and is more Theo’s responsibility than guardian, so Theo is on her own. Perhaps this is the answer to the riddle of her grandfather’s last words… But Theo worries that the painting was not acquired through strictly legal channels. After all, her grandfather had access to priceless art as security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and why would he hide something that was rightfully his? Thus begins Theo’s search for the painting’s origins and the meaning of her grandfather’s last words. Secrets, some centuries old, some decades, some only a matter of weeks, days, and hours, come to light, forever changing the landscape of Theo’s and countless others’ lives. A sophisticated mystery featuring a resilient and intrepid protagonist, UNDER THE EGG is middle grade literature at its best.
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