Under the Egg

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Under the Egg book coverWhat the Book is About:

When 13-year-old Theodora Tenpenny’s grandfather is hit by a car, his final words are about a treasure and a letter. Theo’s search through the family home reveals an old painting, which she suspects might be the work of Raphael, the Renaissance master. It could be the answer to all her problems. Theo’s mother is lost in her own brain, constantly distracted by an unfinished dissertation in mathematics, and Theo is trying to keep the family fed and the bills paid with the little cash her grandfather had. With the help of a new friend, Bodhi, Theo sets out to solve the mystery of the painting, and their search takes them across New York City. Eventually, she is able to solve the mystery of the painting and her grandfather’s role in it.

Jewish Content and Values

  • Theo’s search takes her to The Center for Jewish History, and the librarian there researches the archives at Yad Vashem and The United States Holocaust Museum.
  • Morris Novak, an American Jew who served in World War II, lives in a retirement community with a Shabbat elevator. He wears a yarmulke and has pictures of his grandchildren’s b’nai mitzvah on the wall on the wall of his room.
  • Morris was in a Nazi work camp with Theo’s grandfather and a Polish Jew named Max Trenczer. Max traded a priceless painting to a Nazi officer in order to save his daughter’s life.

Positive Role Models

  • Theo is an industrious, creative, and resilient child who works hard to take care of her mother and their home.
  • Bodhi is a kind and supportive friend who remains committed to helping Theo solve the mystery of the painting.
  • Jack Tenpenny, Theo’s grandfather, was devoted to his family, and never gave up on his quest to reunite the painting with its original owner.
  • Several adults in Theo’s life are kind and generous with their time and resources, including the owner of the local diner, the reverend at the local church, the man who runs the Toasty Nuts Cart, and the librarians at the public library.

Content Advisory

In the first few pages of the book, Theo’s grandfather, Jack, is hit by a car; Theo sees him lying in the street and shares a few final words with him before he dies. Theo’s mother struggles with mental illness and spends her days lost in a world of theorems and equations, leaving Theo to take care of her and run the house on her own. Jack Tenpenny was held in Nazi POW and work camps during the war, and there is a description of emaciated concentration camp inmates in striped pajamas as well as general details about the terrible conditions. Max’s wife was killed in Auschwitz, and Max was shot and killed by the Nazis while attempting to escape.

Talk it Over

Theo’s grandfather took the painting from a collection of art that Nazis stole from Jewish families. He spent his life attempting to return it but was unsuccessful. Have you ever found something that wasn’t yours? What did you do with it?

More for You

In 1943, the Allied forces created The Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Program to protect historic and cultural artifacts from war damage. Over 400 service members and civilians raced to save buildings, monuments, and pieces of art before it was too late. After the war ended, they were tasked with the work of returning art and cultural objects that had been stolen by the Nazis or hidden for safekeeping. Many of the Monuments Men, as they were called, went on to have successful careers as art historians and museum personnel.

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