Thursday, March 20, 2014

Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald: review + givewaway

Under the Egg
by Laura Marx Fitzgerald 
Read: March 14, 2014
Published:  March 18, 2014 by Dial 
Source: NetGalley (thank you Penguin!)
Category: MG, contemporary, NYC, culture
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Summary: When her Theodora Tenpenny spills a bottle of rubbing alcohol on her late grandfather’s painting, she discovers what seems to be an Old Master painting underneath. That’s great news for Theo, who’s struggling to hang onto her family’s two-hundred-year-old Greenwich Village townhouse and support her unstable mother on her grandfather’s legacy of $463. There’s just one problem: her grandfather was a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Theo worries the painting may be stolen.  With the help of some unusual new friends, Theo's search for answers takes her all around New York City, 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.

I don't read a lot of Middle Grade books, but I'm a huge fan of art themes, museums and the possibility of discovering priceless artifacts I never knew I had. For that, I determined Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald was going to be a book for me. Plus that cover is all kinds of adorable. Thankfully, I found this story to be both delightful and smart, a winning combination. 

Theodora Tenpenny (Theo) is a thirteen year old girl with a lot of responsibility. Her grandfather recently died leaving her with their family's two-hundred-year-old townhouse (that is falling apart), an unstable mother and very little cash. He also told her one last message: he's left a treasure for her to find under the egg - a literal painting of an egg that sits over the mantle in his art studio. When Theo spills rubbing alcohol on the picture and discovers an old painting hidden beneath, she sets off to discover what it is and where it came from. In the process, Theo discovers new friends, and a side of her grandfather, and her beloved city, that she never knew existed.

Under the Egg is smart, well-paced and -plotted. I was as surprised as Theo about where this story, and especially the painting, led me. Although I love museums, I'm always worried about books that feature them, because they rarely get the details right. But this one did*. In fact, all the elements I questioned in this storyline were answered or discussed.  For instance, Theo carries the painting around in a suitcase in the dead of summer, and I kept thinking she was going to damage it with the heat!! Thankfully, another character in the story addresses my concerns as well. However, not only the small details, but big questions like provenance and restitution of objects are part of this story, and discussed thoughtfully and accurately. In fact, there is a lot of fascinating and devastating artistic and cultural history imbedded in this story, and I soaked it all up. 

Theo is quite isolated in this book at first. But then she meets Bodhi, the daughter of celebrities, and Theo's new neighbor. I enjoyed Theo and Bodhi's friendship a great deal. They were really great for each other. Quirky in different ways, but surprisingly perfect friend material.  I had so much fun traveling all over the city with the two of them, visiting libraries, museums and research centers, and meeting all sorts of people in the process. I especially liked Eddie, the over enthusiastic librarian. 

At the end of the book, Theo still has a lot of responsibility. More than a 13 year old girl should have to face by herself, and I worry about her future. But I'm thankful that she has friends now to support her, who will hopefully notice when she needs a little help from them. I also thought the way the mystery is solved happens a abruptly, and seemed a bit unbelievable. But it was still an emotional moment and didn't detract from the overall storyline. 

Under the Egg is a quick read that succeeded in capturing my imagination, and spoke right to my passion for history, art, and hidden secrets. The author has even posted a discussion on her website about what in her story is true and what is not: Under the Egg: Fact vs. Fiction. I love when a book I read inspires me to learn more about real past events and people, and this one did just that!

Love Triangle Factor: N/A
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone 

*The one museum element I questioned was the guard structure at the MET: At the MET are security guards hired for certain sections of the museum? Jack was a guard in the European wing and the book says the head curator is his boss. This may be how they do it there. However, all the places I've worked, the guards rotate around and are centralized under a whole security guard division. Curators do not hire or monitor them. Though they do interact and get to know them. This is a tiny thing and doesn't actually matter, but I wondered about it. 


About the author

Laura Marx Fitzgerald is a longtime copywriter. In writing Under the Egg, she drew on her study of art history at Harvard and Cambridge Universities. Her non-fiction gift book, If at First: How Great People Turned Setbacks Into Great Success, was published by Andrews McMeel in 2004. This is her middle grade debut.

 Find and follow: Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Facebook



WIN a hardcopy of Under the Egg

Thank you, Penguin for this generous giveaway! 


Giveaway is for US residents only (Sorry, other international readers!)
You must be at least 13 years old to enter
See my policies HERE

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  1. Ooh, a mysterious painting and inheritance? NICE! I think I saw this on Netgalley but thought it was kind of a cheesy cover (as are so many covers on Netgalley) so I didn't give it a second look. Now, I'm wishing that I had! Library, here I come!

  2. This sounds like something right up my alley. Books with art make me excited, :).

  3. I've seen a lot of good reviews for this book. I've just recently became more open minded about mg books and this one looks so cute!

  4. First off, the cover is amazing. I love covers that are simple, yet they tell a story. I read all types of books, it doesn't matter the grade or genre.

  5. I rarely read middle grade books either Lauren, but I can see why you find this book very appealing, the author really did mix in a lot of different aspects such as art, hidden secrets and history and actually made them work well together! I'm glad that this book took you by surprise!

  6. I adore MG mysteries that are also smart. And what a gorgeous cover!

  7. I have somehow ended up with TWO copies of this book--so it's good to see that you have read and enjoyed it, L! I'm planning on reading (because, hello, art themes and shades of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler!) and then I shall return with more thoughts on your thoughts :)

  8. Under the Egg sounds like a delightful MG read! I'm always on the lookout for reads for this particular audience that will stand out, and I love the idea of museums + a treasure hunt-ish story of sorts. So glad to hear that you enjoyed it!

  9. I don't read middle grade books, but i can definitely see the appeal in this story! Museums, mystery and art sound like a great combo. Lovely review, Lauren! :)

  10. Hooray! I JUST read Christina's positive review on A READER OF FICTIONS, so adding your positive review on top of it makes me want to dash to the library. I LOVE books that get the little details right. Love love love.


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