Masterpiece Adventures: The Marvin & James Series

Book review by
Carrie Kingsley, Common Sense Media
Masterpiece Adventures: The Marvin & James Series Book Poster Image
A beetle and a boy share a friendship in sweet stories.

Parents say

age 6+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

There's almost no academic content in these books, but the social-emotional skills these stories target are important: how to deal with frustration or jealousy, how to navigate friendships, talking about feelings rather than keeping them bottled up, and more.

Positive Messages

The kindness between Marvin and James is sweet and simple, and each book ends on a positive note about generosity and friendship.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The family of beetles is supportive of Marvin's odd friendship with a human, trusting that James always has Marvin's best interests in mind. James has a caring family, even if he doesn't tell them about his friendship with a beetle.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that while Elise Broach's Marvin & James series is based on the characters in her popular mystery Masterpiece, this series about a beetle and his human friend is for slightly younger readers. There's no ambiguity about plot, and readers don't have to decipher emotional cues, which is just right for this age group. The vocabulary might be a stretch occasionally, but not in an overwhelming way. The illustrations on every page reinforce the series' clear message of kindness with gentle humor, and make these longer stories accessible to those just starting chapter books. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written bygrandmareader December 22, 2018

Sweet Book about the friendship between a Boy and a Beetle

James is going on vacation and Marvin has to entertain himself until his friend returns. A simple, sweet book that will delight young children.
Adult Written by11books June 27, 2018

Some good parts, some not so good

I really wanted to like this book overall because there are parts of it that are good. A strength of the book is that the two boy characters (a human and a beet... Continue reading

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What's the story?

In the MARVIN & JAMES series, Marvin the beetle lives with his family under the sink in his friend James' house, unbeknownst to James's parents. James keeps secret his friendship with the beetle who rubs his legs in ink to make drawings, finds lost treasures, and occasionally needs human help to survive. Marvin's family warns him to be careful about getting caught by other humans, but the two friends manage to have sweet interactions, fun adventures, and genuinely care for each other -- even if Marvin can't speak to James. 

Is it any good?

These easy chapter books are gently sweet and funny, and might help young readers build confidence in their social interactions. The Marvin & James series focuses on the sometimes complex emotions of friendship (no matter if you're human or insect), but the illustrations, plot ,and vocabulary make this great for early readers. The series spells out simple lessons that can take the anxiety out of friendships: that friends are friends even if they are separated for a while, and that making a friend happy can make you happy.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how both Marvin and James help each other out: Even though Marvin is tiny, he helps James in surprising ways. How do smaller or younger people help those older or bigger than them?

  • Is a friendship between a person and an animal or insect realistic?

  • What other books have you read about friendships between humans and animals?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love early chapter books and friendhsip stories

Themes & Topics

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