The Magic Paint Brush

Written and illustrated by Johnny Bates; graphics by Dustin Griffin

Publisher: Trafford Pages: 23 Price: (paperback) $16.09 ISBN: 9781466965249 Reviewed: April, 2013 Author Website: Visit »

As the economy sputters in a seaside town, a local girl discovers a magic paintbrush and uses it to restore her town’s prosperity in this simple picture book by Johnny Bates.

The book begins with merchants entering Penny’s family’s bakery sharing stories of economic hardship. Penny cheers them up by giving them paintings she has made. Last to arrive is a struggling art storeowner who invites Penny to pick out a brush and paints in thanks for loaves of bread. While at his store, Penny spies a dusty box, and the owner reveals a brush that’s magical in the hands of a true artist.

When Penny holds the brush, a crack in the handle seals and the bristles stiffen. Soon, whatever Penny touches with the brush turns a solid color. After Penny repaints his rundown art store, the owner beams: “Paint the town, Penny, share your magic with everyone,” he says. Penny refurbishes the town in bright colors, and tourists flock back, lured by its beauty.

This is a sweet premise about the power of art and community, and the importance of believing that things can get better. Yet, the story is generally flat and there’s nothing fantastical about the paint job. By contrast, other tales about magic brushes stretch readers’ imaginations. (In Laurence Yep’s The Magic Paintbrush, for example, an orphan uses a brush made from a unicorn’s tail to paint windows on a wall, then climbs through them into China’s past.)

Additionally, the artwork is underdeveloped. Nothing in an early image of the town suggests that it is rundown, and the town looks more like a sleepy coastal burg than a tourist getaway.

Author-illustrator Johnny Bates describes the story on the back cover as inspirational, but while the premise has the potential to move readers, the text and paintings languish on the page. As a result, the book may have difficulty competing with similar titles by acclaimed authors.

Also available as an ebook.

Author's Current Residence
Aberdeen, Maryland
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