Under the Egg Book Poster Image

Under the Egg



Plucky heroine uncovers stolen painting in engaging mystery.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids will learn a lot about Italian Renaissance painters in general and much detail about Raphael in particular. Religious iconography is explained, as is the way the images relate to the story of Jesus. Readers also will learn a lot about career possibilities for art historians, what happened to treasured artifacts during World War II, and some details about the real Monuments Men. They'll learn about POWs used for slave labor and about the Berga labor camp in particular. There's a brief mention of the Holocaust, with parents and children being separated and loved ones being immediately selected for the gas chamber. Readers get a good overview of the permanent collection of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. The story gives brief but important examples of scholarly research, libraries as valuable resources, and crafty reuse of cast-off items. Fans of downhill skiing will enjoy learning the Sanskrit meaning of "bodhi."

Positive messages

Strong messages about the value of learning about and preserving the past, in terms of artifacts, personal experience, and collective memory. The heroine Theo experiences firsthand the rewards of taking the time to act carefully and do the right thing, as opposed to choosing an easier or more financially lucrative path. Noticing and appreciating small details (for example, in works of art) by taking the time to really examine and think critically about them, as opposed to relying on Internet searching, leads to a better, deeper understanding. Solving complicated problems involves asking for help from the right people.

Positive role models

Thirteen-year-old Theo models loyalty, perseverance, creative problem-solving, and responsibility. Best friend Bodhi models loyalty and is down-to-earth despite her privileged upbringing. Theo's mother is emotionally unavailable, lost in the perpetual, dreamlike pursuit of higher math, and Theo shoulders the burden of being her mother's caretaker. The bad guy's motives are eventually revealed to be not all bad, and other adults Theo meets are kind and helpful to her.

Violence & scariness

At the beginning of the story, Theo sees a family member right after an accident; blood is briefly described as thick and puddled and then as gurgling through his lips. There's a mention of World War II POWs being beaten and forced into slave labor. The acknowledgements mention the documentary and book The Rape of Europa.


A couple of instances of name-calling between friends include "stupid" and "doofus." Once an adult calls Theo "stupid." "Boob" is used once.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Under the Egg is an engaging, fun mystery with an admirable heroine and very little to be concerned about. The story starts out with a tragic death of a family member in a scene that includes a very brief description of blood; historical atrocities such as gas chambers and slave labor are mentioned but not described. Highly educational, the book also shows the benefits and rewards of heroine Theo's "unplugged" lifestyle as she makes the most of a shoestring budget and solves complex problems with careful, critical thinking.

What's the story?

Thirteen-year-old Theo accidentally discovers another painting hiding under one by her artist grandfather. The more she learns about it, the more she suspects it might be an actual Renaissance masterpiece. But if it's genuine, that would only raise a new series of questions, such as how her grandfather came to have it and whether it's stolen. Theo will need the help of the new girl on the block, Bodhi, and a cast of colorful characters to learn the truth about her grandfather's past and where the painting really belongs.

Is it any good?


UNDER THE EGG, Laura Marx Fitzgerald's first novel, is a delightful mystery that will please a wide range of readers in elementary and middle school. The vivid, funny writing evokes the sweltering heat of New York in July as the plucky heroine travels all around Manhattan in search of answers. Fitzgerald adeptly keeps the pages turning, revealing the mystery piece by piece. Heroine Theo's quirky and engaging voice is believable, and kids will easily relate to her while finding much to admire.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why works of art such as paintings by Renaissance masters are important. Why should we learn about them today? What can they teach us?

  • Why are mystery books so popular? What makes a good mystery? What are some of your favorites?

  • If you found something old that you thought might be valuable, would you try to sell it or would you try to find out more about it first?

Book details

Author:Laura Marx Fitzgerald
Topics:Arts and dance, Friendship, Great girl role models, History
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Dial Books
Publication date:March 18, 2014
Number of pages:256
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12
Available on:Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
Award:ALA Best and Notable Books

This review of Under the Egg was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

Top advice and articles

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Educator and Parent Written bymiddlegrademom April 6, 2015

Love the idea but some questionable material

A few chapters into the book, the plot includes mistresses and children born out of wedlock; this is a major part of the storyline. Also, the pastor presented in the book is female and makes negative comments about traditional male clergy. Our family enjoyed the story line but these issues coming up were a surprise and did require conversation and explanation.
Kid, 11 years old April 28, 2015

Interesting Book

This is a fairly interesting book. This book is about a young poor girl trying to take care of her family. She makes an unexpected friendship with a famous girl. This book is good for pre-teens. There is no violence, sex, swearing, consumerism, or drugs.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 12 years old November 27, 2014

Best book!!

This book was amazing. I love historical fiction, and it's hard to find historical fiction that teens will like without any romance, so this was great. I recommend it for 10 and up, because a character's description of a Nazi labor camp is detailed, and Theo's grandfather dies in the first few pages, and there's a considerable amount of blood, though not graphic. Theo and Bodhi are smart and funny, and I really enjoyed this book.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?