Review + Giveaway: Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review + Giveaway: Under the Egg by Laura Marx FitzgeraldUnder the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald
Published by Dial BFYR on March 18, 2014
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 256
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
AmazonThe Book Depository

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler meetsChasing Vermeer in this clever middle grade debut

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.

Middle grade novels are often quite hit or miss with me. Either they’re charming, clever and beautifully insightful or they’re painstakingly obvious and full of jokes that aren’t much fun past a certain maturity level. Both have their place, of course, but they won’t all be hits with adult readers. Under the Egg? It’s a hit. A big hit.

As I often do, I went into Under the Egg totally blind. I had no idea what it was about, but it turned out to be a delightful art history mystery with ties to the second World War. Um, hello, that is some Christina-bait right there. Fitzgerald’s subject matter is both fascinating and educational. She combines a fabulous premise with compelling characters, all unique and flawed, and with a setting in New York City, almost a character itself.

Theodora Tenpenny’s family comes close to living up to the family name. They’ve only got a couple hundred dollars left, and most of that is owed to the woman next door who runs a tea shop. The Tenpennys got by okay until Theo’s grandfather died, but now it’s up to her to take care of her mother and keep the house just this side of foreclosure. At only thirteen, Theo manages everything. She grows all of their food, cans it, and takes care of their chickens. She also scavenges the streets of New York for anything useful, like a pair of tennis shoes in just her size. She repurposes scraps of old clothing into outfits for herself. Though they live in a large house in a nice area, the Tenpennys are desperately poor.

Theo is, as one might expect, pretty cynical, but she also never stops trying. Her mother is no help, likely a mathematical genius so far as I can tell but with no practical application to running the household finances. The mother spends most of her time shut in her room working on mathematical theorems and drinking expensive teas. I would have liked to know more about what was going on with the mother, but she was definitely interesting.

When her grandfather died, he told her to look “under the egg” for treasure. Eventually, by accident, she finds another painting beneath her grandfather’s painting of an egg. She begins investigating and discovers the painting just might be worth millions. What ensues is an art history mystery that has roots in WWII, and it’s just so wonderful. It’s kind of like Iain Pears for younger readers.

Along the way, Theo learns a lot about people. She makes a new friend in Bodhi, the daughter of two Hollywood A-listers. Bodhi’s incredibly bright and always looking for a new project. They’ve both been isolated for different reasons and come together in a first tentative friendship. I also really love their association with Eddie, the local librarian, who is totally opposite of all librarian stereotypes.

Under the Egg is perfect for history or art nerds of any age. It’s fast-paced, but deep and full of great information.

Favorite Quote:

“Pretty-unlikely-but-super-dramatic case scenario: They’re really vampires, but we fend them off with the Baby Jesus picture, casting them back to the tenth circle of hell.”

“Actually, we’re already doomed to the tenth circle of hell.” I stood up and grabbed the suitcase again. “Because we’re about to ride the subway in July.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

Arrested Devlopment money in the banana stand

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12 responses to “Review + Giveaway: Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald”

  1. Nori says:

    This book sounds super interesting. It’s a little hard to believe that the main character would just accidentally happen to drop rubbing alcohol on the one painting that had a secret underneath. But, it certainly makes for a fun sounding mystery. It sounds a lot like the “Sixty-Eight Rooms” books that I love so much -though with more mystery and less magical time travel. Also, she grows/cans all her food and has chickens in NYC?
    Nori recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday (85)My Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Ha, yeah, the rubbing alcohol was suuuuper convenient. I mean, she did have the painting out to look at it, but that was specifically what she had to do and not the most likely thing. But whatever.

      Well, her family has this once super nice big brownstone with an actual backyard, which is where she does all of that stuff. I can’t really speak to how realistic chickens are with zoning or whatever, because I’ve never lived in NYC.

  2. Amy says:

    I’ve only recently became open minded about mg books but i’ve seen so many good reviews for this book. Aww,Poor Theo Tenpenny I hope everything works out for the best and money isn’t as tight anymore . I read a cute ya spy novel recently Also Known As and I’m in the mood but another light hearted mystery.

  3. Christina bait? Sounds like Kara bait too. I wanted to major in art history. I am growing to love WW2 books and I thought I never, ever would. And you know I love middle grade. Actually, I had added this book to my tbr a long time ago, and I didn’t even remember that I had done that. Good sign, no?

    Are you not doing ratings anymore? I see a 4 star tag but I don’t actually see the rating?! I am confused.
    Kara @ Great Imaginations recently posted…Book Review: Blood Royal by Eric JagerMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      I genuinely think you will love this one. There are a couple of overly convenient things, but you’re gonna get that in most MG mysteries. Overall it’s wonderful, though. Simply beautiful.

      No, I’m still rating things, but I never remember to do them in WP. Maybe I should stop just so I don’t forget them. UGH.

  4. Tricia C. says:

    Love mysteries! This one sounds interesting. Other commenters mentioned already having it on their list. I’d never heard of it before your review. Love the sound of a protagonist who’s so resourceful. Besides teaching 7th grade, I’m a sewist. Very intriguing that she repurposes fabric into clothing. Will definitely add this one to my TBR list. Thanks for the heads up!

  5. Jpetroroy says:

    I adore smart MG mysteries. And anything that’s been compared to Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is right up my alley.

  6. Bonnie says:

    Art history mystery and WWII tidbits? Ooooh I am intrigued. Damn. That is one resourceful 13 year old. You totally sold me on this one. Another to add to the list. Great review!!
    Bonnie recently posted…Book Review – Ignite Me (Shatter Me #3) by Tahereh MafiMy Profile

  7. anne s. says:

    every1 is raving about this book as a potential newberry winner. it is featured on goodreads with amazing reviews as well. would totally love to read it! it is nice when a book gets such great buzz abt it

  8. Dahlia Adler says:

    Oh, I’m *so* excited this is good! I never read MG, but I was sad I was missing the author’s party for a different signing, and then I saw the book *at* the bookstore hosting the signing, so I bought it on a whim, and yay, now I’m excited to read it.
    Dahlia Adler recently posted…This Year’s Success!!!!!My Profile

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