A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Gallery is another mystery by Laura Marx Fitzgerald (Under the Egg), this time set in New York in 1929 and skewing to a slightly older tween and middle-grade audience. The two books have some common themes, but the stories are completely separate. The mystery surrounds a woman who seems to be a prisoner in her own home and whose husband may be trying to drive her insane by poisoning her. The Roaring Twenties setting includes many references to alcohol, and Martha's father shows alcoholic and drunken behavior. Other content is mild, but there are several references and a minor plot point involving the prevailing prejudice in the United States against Italians at that time and a newspaper headline that uses the ethnic slur "wop." Art history is another prominent theme, and kids will learn about some famous painters, symbolism in art, and art appreciation in general, although there's not as much detail about that as there was in Under the Egg.
What's the story?
In 1929, Martha is 12 years old and not doing well in school. So her mother gets her a job as a maid in the grand Fifth Avenue mansion where her mother is housekeeper. Martha learns that Rose, the lady of the house, never leaves her room, eats exactly the same thing every day, and spends most of her time rummaging through her collection of paintings by some of the world's greatest artists. Every now and then, Rose sends a few paintings to hang on the walls downstairs. The more Martha learns about the paintings, the more she gets the feeling Rose is trying to communicate something to the outside world. Just about everyone in that mansion is hiding something, and Martha is determined to learn the truth about THE GALLERY.
Is it any good?
Laura Marx Fitzgerald has created another engaging story that historical fiction and mystery lovers alike will enjoy. Tweens especially will relate to Martha's admirable pluck as she gets to the bottom of things. They'll also learn a bit about classical and modern painting and about the stock market crash that started the Great Depression.
The plot is well structured, with lots of intrigue that keeps the pages turning. The characters are colorful and well developed. Tweens will enjoy immersing themselves in the height of the Roaring Twenties. Fans of Under the Egg are sure to enjoy a new story and setting that still offer mystery, intrigue, and a smart girl getting to the bottom of it all. There's not a lot of depth here, but it's a fun way to expose young fans of historical fiction and mystery to a time and place they may not know much about.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how much more we know about smoking and drinking today than people did in the 1920s. Did you know about Prohibition, when drinking alcohol was illegal in the U.S., before you read this book?
Would you like to see any of the paintings that Martha saw? Which ones were the most interesting or the hardest to picture? Search online, or go to your local or school library, where you can find lots of books, images, and information about the paintings and the artists.
Did you read the author's note about Sacco and Vanzetti? What about their story could almost be taken from today's headlines?
- Author: Laura Marx Fitzgerald
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Topics: Arts and Dance, Great Girl Role Models, History
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: June 14, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 14
- Number of pages: 336
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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