- [-] Other Available FormatsOur PriceNew & Used MarketplaceThe Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World (Paperback)
Publisher: Atheneum Books$7.99
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 82.
- Review Date: 2007-07-30
- Reviewer: Staff
This complex work has all the trappings of vintage Konigsburg: unusually articulate children considering the adult world and trying to stake their claim on it; an art history–related mystery; a headlines-inspired story line; eccentric grown-ups; and, of course, incisive, often brilliant prose. Sad to say, the magic is missing. The action starts off promisingly. Amedeo Kaplan (son of characters met in The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place) has just moved to coastal Florida and made friends with William Wilcox, son of an estate sale manager (introduced in the story collection Throwing Shadows). As the boys help William’s mother pack up the palatial home of Amedeo’s next-door neighbor, a larger-than-life retired opera singer, Amedeo finds a signed Modigliani drawing. Because Amedeo has just returned from attending an art exhibit curated by another Outcasts alum, Peter Vanderwaal, on the subject of “degenerate” art (modern art criminalized by the Nazis), Amedeo is primed to uncover the history behind the drawing—a dark provenance that links the retired opera singer, the Vanderwaals and the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam. While the author’s material and style prove as stimulating as ever, her repeated reliance on coincidence weakens the book’s impact. Her tried-and-true fans will forgive these contrivances, but newcomers should not start here. Ages 9-12. (Sept.)
Hidden treasure at an estate sale
Skillful storytelling, incisive characters and thought-provoking themes are at the heart of two-time Newbery Medalist E.L. Konigsburg's novels, including her latest, The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World. In this stunning narrative, sixth-grader Amedeo Kaplan, the son of divorced artist Jacob Kaplan and telephone company executive Loretta Bevilaqua (whom readers met in The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place), wants "to find something that had been lost, something that people didn't even know was lost until it was foundby him," much like the discovery of the Rosetta Stone or the cave paintings of Lascaux.
When Amedeo's mother relocates the family from New York City to St. Malo, Florida, the boy doubts he will ever find anything interesting until he meets their neighbor, Mrs. Zender, a one-time diva and retired opera singer. She decides that "the world as it ought to be has come to an end," or rather, that she can no longer manage her mansion financially, and must downsize to a retirement community. Amedeo's interest in the eccentric woman leads to his friendship with his classmate, William Wilcox, whose mother is managing the estate sale. Soon the boys are working side by side, helping Mrs. Wilcox and swapping stories about art, antiques and Mrs. Zender's life.
Amedeo's dream comes true when he finds a signed Modigliani hidden among Mrs. Zender's treasures. He immediately turns to his godfather, Peter Vanderwaal (another character originally from The Outcasts). Also an art director, Peter has created a show on Degenerate Art, works of art reviled by Hitler and his Nazi regime. Amedeo's search for the truth about this mysterious sketch also reveals secrets about Peter's father during the German occupation of Amsterdam, Mrs. Zender's past and how the two are related.
Each interlocking piece of this mystery produces an astounding puzzle that shows the importance of art, history, family and friendship. For middle-grade readers and younger teens, The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World is a true find!