“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying good-bye so hard.” –  Winnie the Pooh [A. A. Milne]

Reading Level

Ages 8-10

Grade 2 [Scholastic]

AR 2.6

Review and Comments

 James Pompaday and Marvin are the best of friends even though James is a boy and Marvin is a beetle.  They truly enjoy each other’s company and devotedly support one another.  Their friendship is tested when James spends a week at a summer camp and Marvin has to stay home. Marvin is troubled and wonders if James will think about him while he’s gone or even find a new friend to replace him, which would be the worst outcome.

After James leaves, Marvin is quite sad, but at the urging of his mother decides to cheer up and have an adventure with his cousin Elaine.  They agree to explore the world of Mr. Pompaday’s desk where daring Elaine immediately zeros in on a black box with an intriguing small hole. While the two beetles investigate their new discovery, the reader also experiences the world of the inside of a pencil sharpener from their unique perspective.  The two cousins thoroughly enjoy every aspect of their adventure until the escape hole is filled with a large pencil.  At this point in the story there is a lot of humorous drama from Elaine in her panicked state.  She truly is dramatic while Marvin calmly analyses the situation and executes their escape.

When James’ vacation week is finally over Marvin is very excited to see his friend, but he is still a bit nervous that James might possibly have a new best friend.  His mother wisely explains that it is possible for a person to have more than one friend.  James returns and Marvin realizes their bond is as strong as ever. Their true friendship is a good lesson because a young reader will witness both sides of the situation.  One friend experiences a new adventure, one friend is left to carry on with his everyday life, and yet their individual adventures help them appreciate each other even more.

I’m not a fan of beetles by any means, but Marvin is a delightful character who sincerely voices common concerns about a friendship that are tested by absence. Elaine is a loyal cousin who supports Marvin during his tough week without James.  She shines in her theatrical role, and is my favorite creature in this story.  The suggested reading level for this book is ideal.

“There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.” — Thomas Aquinas

Possible Concerns

There are no concerns with this book.

Further Discussion

Articles about Beetles for Kids:

  • “Beetle Facts for Kid” answers the questions: What do beetles do? Where can you find beetles? What are the beetle’s stages of life? How many legs does a beetle have? What do beetles eat?

Attention creative writers!  This lesson is about personification, “A Day in the Life of a Pencil Sharpener” for grades 2-4.

“Making and Keeping Friends” (Elementary School Counseling) is a resource with many friendship lessons.h

Catholic Resources

  • This is not a Catholic site, but Catholic information is included under Faith and Prayer.  The article “The Five Greatest Friendships of the Bible” (and the best values we can learn from each) has very good information.  Itincludes the stories of: David and Jonathan, Moses and Aaron, Elijah and Elisha, Naomi and Ruth, and Christ and Mankind, and the lessons each relationship teaches about friendship.
  • St. John the Apostle is the patron saint of love, loyalty, and friendships.  His feast day is December 27.
  • CCC 142 By his Revelation, “the invisible God, from the fullness of his love, addresses men as his friends, and moves among them, in order to invite and receive them into his own company.” The adequate response to this invitation is faith.

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