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The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World    by E. L. Konigsburg order for
Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World
by E. L. Konigsburg
Order:  USA  Can
Atheneum, 2007 (2007)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

E. L. Konigsburg's Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World reminded me of Driving Miss Daisy, the chauffeur replaced by two independent sixth graders, who form an unusual friendship as they help an eccentric aging lady, Mrs. Zender, with the estate sale that will fund her move to a retirement community - they notice she's 'right cranky' about the pending move. Mrs. Zender, who once was opera singer Aida Lily Tull and 'the richest girl in town', is used to having 'people to do things for her.'

Amedeo Kaplan and his executive mother have recently moved into the navy town of St. Malo, Florida. Amedeo dreams that he will 'find something that had been lost, something that people didn't even know had been lost until it was found - by him.' He meets his flamboyant neighbor, the tall, 'definitely zaftig' Mrs. Zender, when he needs to use her phone to sort out their own problems with the phone system. At school, Amedeo is intrigued by self-assured, aloof William Wilcox, after hearing of his persistence in having an old silk screen assessed and purchased as a valuable museum piece. When Amedeo learns that William's mother, a liquidator, is handling Mrs. Zender's estate sale, and that William is working at cleaning and sorting items, Amedeo asks if he can work alongside William.

Amadeo's godfather, Peter Vanderwaal, is preparing for an exhibit of Degenerate Art (a label the Nazis applied to modern art that Hitler did not find acceptable, while confiscating over sixteen thousand works) for the Sheboygan Art Center when he learns that his father is dying. After the funeral, Peter's mother presses on him a gray metal lockbox containing 'An archive of your father's life.' When Peter reads part of his father's memoir, he learns that his father was raised by an elder brother Pieter, an art gallery owner in Amsterdam, Holland. Before the Germans invaded, Pieter and his friends carefully packed away famous works of art from the Rijksmuseum in a back-back workshop to hide them from the invaders.

Soon these plotlines converge. Amedeo finds a remarkable drawing in his neighbor's library and his loyalties are torn. Mrs. Vanderwaal reads the story of the hero for whom her son was named. After Aida Lily Tull tells about her own life, her marriage to Mr. Zender, and how it came about that she received the drawing as a wedding present, they all learn how valuable that work of art truly was, in what it paid for. Read and enjoy The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World for its engagingly idiosyncratic characters and for the vivid patterns of mystery and history that the author cleverly weaves through her tale.

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