Amedeo Kaplan seems just like any other new kid who has moved into the town of St. Malo, Florida, a navy town where new faces are the norm. But Amedeo has a secret, a dream: More than anything in the world, he wants to discover something -- a place, a process, even a fossil -- some treasure that no one realizes is there until he finds it. Read more...
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Amedeo Kaplan seems just like any other new kid who has moved into the town of St. Malo, Florida, a navy town where new faces are the norm. But Amedeo has a secret, a dream: More than anything in the world, he wants to discover something -- a place, a process, even a fossil -- some treasure that no one realizes is there until he finds it. And he would also like to discover a true friend to share these things with.
William Wilcox seems like an unlikely candidate for friendship: an aloof boy who is all edges and who owns silence the way other people own words. When Amedeo and William find themselves working together on a house sale for Amedeo's eccentric neighbor, Mrs. Zender, Amedeo has an inkling that both his wishes may come true. For Mrs. Zender's mansion is crammed with memorabilia of her long life, and there is a story to go with every piece. Soon the boys find themselves caught up in one particular story -- a story that links a sketch, a young boy's life, an old man's reminiscence, and a painful secret dating back to the outrages of Nazi Germany. It's a story that will take them to the edge of what they know about heroism and the mystery of the human heart.
Two-time Newbery winner E. L. Konigsburg spins a magnificent tale of art, discovery, friendship, history, and truth.
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!