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Robin Muller.
Toronto, ON: Doubleday Canada, 1989.
32pp., cloth, $14.95.
ISBN 0-385-25228-5. CIP.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11

Reviewed by Janice Foster.

Volume 18 Number 2
1990 March

Robin Muller is a celebrated artist and story-teller. He is the author of such children's publications as Tatterhood ¹, The Sorcerer's Apprentice ² and others. Besides numerous other awards for art, Muller has most recently been awarded the Silver Medal by Studio Magazine for his illustration of The Magic Paintbrush .

Nib, a poor orphan, has one wish - to be an artist. Upon rescuing an old man from a brutal beating, Nib is rewarded with a paintbrush that can bring pictures to life. The elderly man explains that as long as the boy sees with his eyes the brush will help him. But when he learns to see with his heart he will no longer need it.

Nib is caught and brought to the greedy King to paint pictures solely for him. Managing to escape, the lad wanders the kingdom painting but never completely finishing his pictures in case they come to life. As Nib travels he becomes aware of the pain and the ugliness in the world and decides to return home to his friends. There he is recaptured by the King but as he triumphs over this evil foe Nib learns to see with his heart.

The author captures the mood of magic and enchantment through the rich narrative. The detailed, full-page illustrations that accompany each page of text are sombre and depict the cruelty and ugliness of Nib's world. The artist's clever use of light contrasts good and evil. The darkness of the illustrations might not readily appeal to the younger reader but it forms an essential element in the fantasy atmosphere of this Chinese inspired folktale. The story lends itself to reading aloud and to discussion. The popularity of The Magic Paintbrush might depend on its promotion by others who have read and enjoyed it.

Janice Foster, Winnipeg, MB.

¹ Reviewed vol. XUI/3 May 1985, p.ll7.
² Reviewed vol XIV/2 March 1986, p.86.

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