The Magic Paintbrush
Reviewed: June 20, 2005
By: Robin Muller
32 pages, $8.99
Young Nib was a street
child, a waif with a big dream, He wanted to become an artist. Poor as he
was, all he could do was sketch on pieces of cast-off paper with bits of charcoal
that fell from the charcoal burner's wagon. Even so, it was clear he had a
He also had a big
heart and a quick wit, and when he heard some ruffians beating up an old man
one night, he was clever enough toe scare them off so that he and the other
street urchins could help the old fellow. He had no way of knowing that this
would be a turning point in his life.
The old man was a
mystic and a calligrapher, and his gift to Nib was a brush which "has
been used to adorn the Words of Life, and the power of life is in its touch."
The old man's home
vanished as soon as Nib left it, and he found that now whatever he painted
came to life, and that he could paint anything that he could see.
Gifts can become curses,
and Nib soon finds himself a captive of the greedy ruler of the city, forced
to paint him trinkets and jewels. Using his wits and his brush, he escapes,
and finds that he can make a living with his art so long as he never quite
finishes a piece of work.
One day, however,
he goes back to see hiss friends, and finds that he must learn how to paint
with his heart as well as with his eyes if he is to save Sara, the watercress
girl, who has has been persecuted along with Nib's other friends by the King's
agents, who are trying to find him.
Once again, Nib has
to use his wits and his abilities to save himself and others, and do the country
itself a big favour. It meant a big sacrifice on his part, but he was up to
the challenge because, as he told Sara when it was all over, "The best
picture are the ones you make with your heart."
Robin Muller is a
storyteller as well as an illustrator, and this book shows that delightful
marriage of words and images which makes up a good tale. While this is a children's
book, the story is not simple and works just as a short story on its own.
Muller's illustrations set the scene and show what Nib can do. The full page
paintings are rich in scope and detail and fit beautifully with the story.
This is a new paperback
edition of a book that first appeared some 15 years ago. I can't recall seeing
it before, but it was a delight this time.