"Reiss' eerie time travel mystery will snag readers on the first page and hold them until the last."--Booklist
"A palette with daubs of time travel, artists, magic, evil, and possession paints an intriguing mystery."--Kirkus Reviews
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Something is terribly wrong with Connor's mom--she keeps slipping into bizarre trances. Connor suspects that the key to his mom's strange behavior is an old art book filled with paintings of a woman who looks exactly like her. But the artist who created those paintings died before his mom was even born.
Connor gets his chance to break the evil link between the past and the present when he is mysteriously whisked back in time to the 1920s. But can he save his mom--and himself--before it's too late?
"A palette with daubs of time travel, artists, magic, evil, and possession paints an intriguing mystery."--Kirkus Reviews
What's Wrong with This Picture?
There was no mistaking it. Something was wrong. It was like when you look at one of those what's-wrong-with-this-picture puzzles. You know something is weird-but what? Then you look a little longer and you start to see stuff you hadn't noticed before, like a dagger hiding in a tree. Or a face in the shadows on a mountain.
Weirder still if you find your own mom staring out of the picture.
That's what happened to me. More or less. I was coming home from school one day last fall, a whole two hours earlier than usual because my after-school computer class had been cancelled at the last second when the teacher got sick. It felt strange to be taking the early bus, knowing there'd be time just to hang out on my own. I was making plans, like how I'd bring a whole bag of chips and a huge bowl of salsa up to my room and watch TV. Or how I could watch my Star Wars videos for the fiftieth time. It was going to be so cool to be in the house with time to myself. For once.
So when I let myself into the front hall with my own key and heard a noise coming from the living room, I froze. It was our housekeeper Mrs. White's day off, and no one else should have been home yet. For a second I was worried about burglars, but when I peeked across the hall, there was my mom-of all people-sitting on the living-room couch. She was just sitting there with a big book open on her lap, looking up with a little smile, as if she'd heard me come in and was glad to see me. And for some crazy reason she was holding a long-stemmed red rose in one hand.
"Hey, Mom," I said, shrugging out of my jacket. "What's with the rose?"
Her smile stayed just the same, and she didn't move at all. It was as if she were a statue or something. I dropped my jacket onto the floor and entered the living room. "Mom, are you okay? You look different-are you sick?"
My mom commutes to Oakland and doesn't usually get home until late, sometimes not till I'm in bed. And she's never sick. She says she doesn't have time to be sick, what with her job and her clients and all the work she has to do being a hotshot lawyer. She's a partner in the firm of Johnson, Judd, Jones, and Rigoletti. Mom's the Rigoletti part. As always, she stands out in a crowd.
"Mom?" She didn't answer me. It was as if she didn't even hear me or see me-though her eyes were wide open. Then I noticed that she wasn't blinking. She was just holding the big book-but she wasn't reading it-and that rose in her hand stayed perfectly motionless. It was very freaky.
I reached out hesitantly and touched her shoulder, feeling the soft, lacy sleeve of the swirly dress I'd never seen before. Not her usual style.
"Connor!" she shrieked, suddenly coming to life and snapping the book shut like a trap. I jumped back, like she'd turned into a tiger.
Then she was up off the couch and grabbing me in a humongous hug. The book slid to the floor with a thunk. "Connor, darling! My baby! My little boy! Let me look at you-oh, my goodness, you are absolutely the cat's meow-you haven't changed a bit!" The rose tickled my ear.
She must be very sick. "Whoa, Mom. It's been, like, one day since you saw me last time." I tried to pull out of her arms-we're not a very huggy-kissy family, after all-but she held on like a big bear. This was sort of scaring me.
"I can't believe it." She smoothed her hand over my blond hair. "My own, sweet, curly Connor."
"Yuck, Mom. Lay off!" I pulled back, scowling at her.
It was strange how she looked so different from yesterday. It wasn't just the new haircut-short and curled into little waves that bobbed on her cheeks-and her new clothes, but she smelled different, too. Like fresh flowers-not her usual spicy perfume.
She let me go. "Sorry, love. I'm just-just so glad to see you." Her voice was trembly and her eyes were tearful. She kept sneaking little looks at me. Then she laughed and ruffled my hair. "But don't look so worried, Con. I'm here now. I'm back."
I gave her a look. "Okay, Mom, whatever you say."
"Connor Rigoletti-Chase." Mom pronounced my name slowly, as if savoring the sound.
I frowned. "Whatever." I hardly ever use our double-barrelled last name. Just Chase. It's easier.
"Come to the kitchen, darling." Mom reached for my hand. "Growing boys need their afternoon snacks-and I've got something in the oven you're going to love."
Oven? When had my mom learned to cook?
She picked up my jacket and the fallen rose petals, and carried them out of the living room. I just stood there for a moment, feeling the strangeness. Somehow even with my mom out of the room, the living room still felt...different. As if something had happened there. I leaned down and picked up the big book she'd been reading.
It was one of the books that usually lies on the coffee table, in the living room, with a lot of other big books, the kind no one ever reads. No one is even meant to read these books-they're just the ones the decorator told my parents were needed on the table to give the room a cozy and lived-in yet sophisticated and elegant air-though hardly anyone ever uses the room, anyway. The decorator found the books in an antique store and thought they had the right "look" for our coffee table. I put the big book back on the table. It was called Cotton in the Twentieth Century, probably about weaving or sewing or something. It looked dead boring.
"Connor!" Mom's voice was shrill. She stood in the living-room doorway. "Leave that silly book alone and come get your snack."
I followed her to the kitchen. It was strange to see Mom working in the kitchen instead of Mrs. White or Ashleigh. Ashleigh is our baby-sitter. She lives in the apartment over our garage and takes care of my sister, Crystal, and me when she's not doing whatever people in college do. She's been with us for nearly four years, ever since our au pair from Switzerland left, and my parents have said a million times they have nightmares about the day Ashleigh will graduate and leave us.
Mom turned to me with a swirl of her skirt. "Crystal should be home by now, shouldn't she, Connor?"
"Nah," I told her. "It's not nearly time. She gets here closer to six."
Mom pursed her lips. "That seems so late for a child to be getting home."
"Well, you're the one who signed us up for our activities." Duh, I thought. As if Mom didn't know! She and Dad paid megabucks for all our extra lessons and stuff.
Crystal is my thirteen-year-old sister, and usually the less said about her, the better. But right now I would have been happy to see her home on an early bus. She might know what had happened to Mom's clothes, for one thing.
Mom's soft blue dress had a knee-length skirt with little glittery glass bead things sewn into it. She looked sparkly, like somebody in an old-time movie. Usually she wore elegant, businesslike clothes in gray or beige, with colorful silk scarves around her neck. She looked younger today, somehow, in the blue dress-younger even than she does on weekends, with her pale hair in a ponytail, rushing around, driving me to karate, Crystal to ballet, and both of us to soccer and gymnastics.
Mom kept smiling like she was so thrilled to see me as she led me to the kitchen table. "Now, sit yourself right down and tell me about yourself. I mean, about your day."
"The computer teacher threw up so they cancelled class, and I caught the early bus home."
"Oh, dear. Nothing serious, I hope," Mom said. She put two plates on the table, one for me and one for her, and two glasses. "Now, go ahead. Sit down. Why are you looking so anxious, honey? Aren't you hungry?"
"Sure, I'm hungry," I said agreeably, and sat down. I'm always hungry, but I felt antsy. I'm used to getting my own snack after school. But more than that, it was hard to relax when everything seemed somehow changed.
One change was that my snack didn't come out of the freezer, where all my microwave kid-meal snacks are stored. Instead Mom thrust her hands into oven gloves and opened the oven door. She brought out a cake pan filled with something fresh and smelling like heaven. "Cool!" I said.
"It's hot, actually," Mom said, then smiled, "so don't burn your mouth." She poured me a big glass of milk and tipped the cake out onto a plate. "Drink up," she said cheerfully. "We'll have to wait a few minutes to cut the cake. But you can have seconds if you want. Twelve-year-old boys have hollow legs."
"Eleven, Mom. I'm eleven." I paused. "And can't I have Coke instead of milk?"
She flushed. "Silly me-of course you're still eleven! But-no Coke. Milk is better for young bones."
I drank the milk without a word, and when she served me the cake, I ate four pieces. No way was I going to remind her that she and Dad had been talking only last week about how they were going to sign Crystal and me up for a fitness sports camp to keep us in shape over the long summer vacation-as if we don't spend the whole school year doing activities already! I just wanted to spend the summer being a couch potato. I mean, who wouldn't?
Anyway, the cake seemed to melt in my mouth. I decided I could get used to coming home from school to my mom and homemade snacks every day.
As I savored each bite of this unexpected treat, I reached behind me to the cookbook shelf, where we keep the remote for the kitchen TV, but it wasn't there. Then I looked over to the counter where the little TV usually sat, and it wasn't there, either. "Hey," I called. "Mom! I think we've been robbed!"
Mom was at the sink, peeling potatoes. Peeling potatoes? I'd never seen her do that in my life. "No, darling, we haven't been robbed. I just thought a break from TV would do us all some good." Instead of stuffing the potato peelings down the disposal the way Mrs. White does, Mom collected them into a bowl and set them aside. "We'll have to start a compost pile," she said with a little smile. "'Waste not, want not.'"
It was all very, very weird. "Whatever."
"You know, dear," she said gently, "years ago kids didn't have TV and they found plenty to do. You will, too; wait and see."
"But, Mom! What about my shows?" I always watch TV after school!
I stomped out of the room, ignoring Mom when she called for me to come back and rinse my plate. Rinse my plate? That was Mrs. White's job. Or Ashleigh's. I would just watch my shows in the family room.
But when I looked into the family room, the big-screen TV wasn't there, either. The wall looked blank without it. I tore upstairs to my room. The TV on my dresser was gone, too!
I went crazy. I ran through all the rooms-my sister's, my parents', the guest room-all the TVs were gone! I ran downstairs and out the door, to the garage, then up the narrow steps in the garage to Ashleigh's apartment. I knocked, but when there was no answer, I barged right in. Ashleigh never locks her door. I'm not usually a snoop (except when I'm spying on Crystal), but I just had to see whether Mom had tossed out Ashleigh's TV, too.
No, there it was, complete with VCR and Nintendo.
I plopped down in relief and reached for the remote.
Bliss for about three minutes-because there was Mom again, peering in Ashleigh's front door like the vice police or something. "Oh, Connor," she said sorrowfully. "Con, honey, come down with me and I'll read to you."
"Read to me?" I must have shrieked without knowing it, because Mom put her finger to her lips. "I hate to read, and I'm missing my shows! Now, leave me alone and-"
"Shh. That's enough. I don't want you coming in here without Ashleigh's permission."
"I don't, usually, but I want to watch-"
"No. I want to see what else you can find to do. Go over to Doug's."
"Doug has choir after school today," I snapped.
"Well, go out and play."
Play? Was she kidding?
Apparently not. She turned off the TV and hustled me out of Ashleigh's apartment, down the stairs into the garage, and then back into our house. "You can play in the backyard, or ride your bike, or climb a tree-"
"Mom, we don't have any trees." That was all I could think to say. Though it was true. My dad told me there had once been a whole lemon grove where our housing development now stood, but a big fire fifty years ago had burned almost everything down, and the rest had been bulldozed later to build the new houses. Our yard was covered with thick green grass, with flower beds along the redwood fence separating it from Doug's yard next door. Our grass and flowers were tended by an ancient guy named Gregorio, the weekly gardener. In one corner our old blue-and-orange plastic climbing structure still stood, with a swing and a slide and a lookout tower. Did she expect me to play on that?
"You'll think of something to do," Mom said. There was a steely expression in her eyes as she turned and went back to the kitchen.
Instead of going outside to play, I stomped up to my bedroom. It was a cool room, basically, though I think maybe the decorator my parents hired went a little bit overboard with the Star Wars theme. I love Star Wars, don't get me wrong, and I love the dark blue and gold star wallpaper and the constellations stuck up on the ceiling in glow-in-the-dark plastic. And the furniture is totally cool, too. My bed is a plastic model of a starship, and there's a trundle bed that looks like a booster rocket underneath that can be pulled out for a guest.
My dresser looks like a robot, with the different drawers pulling out from the robot's body. My TV used to be on top.
The desk takes up the whole wall with the window, and it's like a bi command center with my computer and telephone and my music system. I hurried over to the desk command center now, so I could call my dad in San Francisco, where people pay him big bucks to do things with computers. He always said not to call him at work unless it was an emergency, but I figured this was an emergency. He needed to know that Mom had thrown away our TVs. How was he going to watch his shows?
I reached for the phone-but things were more serious than I'd thought. The TVs weren't the only things Mom had tossed. My phone was gone! And the computer-you guessed it. When I tried to turn it on, nothing happened. My light worked okay, and my CD player worked, so I knew we weren't in the middle of a blackout or something. Mom had removed all of the cables!
I stormed down the stairs to confront my mom-but at the living-room door, I stopped short.
There she sat, just like before, looking cool and unruffled in her light blue dress, with the big antique book open on her lap. There was a saucer on the table next to her, and a plate with a slice of cake. She held her teacup as if about to take a drink, but she wasn't drinking. She was just sitting there like a statue-and her face was frozen in a look of pure terror.
"Mom?" I said. Suddenly I felt scared. The air grew colder, and there was a strange silence all through the house-especially in that room, blanketing my mom. She didn't even notice I was there.
"Is that the book you wanted to read to me?" I demanded loudly from the doorway.
She jumped, slapping the book shut. The tea sloshed onto the couch. When she looked up at me, there was a bewildered expression in her eyes, but the scared look was gone. "Book?" she said. "Oh! Not at all-this is another book entirely."
"Are you all right, Mom?" My moment of being scared was over-but things still felt weird.
"Of course," she said in a firm voice, as if speaking firmly would make it true. "Let's go to the family room and I'll be happy to read something to you, darling."
"No thanks. I'm going outside to play."
Our street-Lemon Street-ended in a cul-de-sac, a dead-end circle like most of the streets in our development, except the one leading out to East Main, past Kmart and the grocery store, then on to the maze of freeways. Our school is on the other side of the freeway tangle, and sometimes the school bus sits in traffic for twenty minutes just trying to inch past all the commuters. We could practically walk faster-but who walks, anyway?
I sat on the front step, looking out at the empty road. I don't think I'd ever sat there before, and I'd lived here for eleven years-ever since I was born. But better out here than inside with Mom and her weirdness.
I sighed. No sign of life, except for the dog across the street, who barked at me sharply from his fenced-in front yard. He was excited-glad to see me. Probably his days were really boring, just looking out at the street, with nothing to guard or chase, and no company. Nobody's really home on our street till evening because all the adults work and the kids are at school or day care. It would be a good street to come to if you were a burglar, except that all the houses, including ours, have Silent Sentry alarm systems hooked up.
I guessed I could ride my bike-but where to? I looked up at big old Mount Diablo rising above our town. There's no more "grove" in Shady Grove, but the shade's still there, and always will be, when the late afternoon sun hits the mountain. It was shady out here now, and growing dark. Not exactly great for playing.
I checked my watch. It was almost five-thirty. Crystal would be home soon. So I figured I would just wait for my sister's bus. Can you believe it? First time I ever wanted to see her. But she had to be warned that something very, very weird was going on with Mom.
Copyright © 2002 by Kathryn Reiss
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording,
or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be mailed to the following address: Permissions Department,
Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.
KATHRYN REISS is the author of many acclaimed time-travel mystery novels for teens. She lives in northern California.
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This book may seem normal, but after you read the first pages, you will be hooked up and you won´t be comfort until you finish and understood the mystery of this story. I highly recommend it to mystery and fantasy readers.
i think this book is wonderfully written. it captures you right from the begining. It was kind of weird every time his mom would freeze. I was dying to know what was going on. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a little mystery and time travel.
Paint by Magic leaves you not wanting the book to end. You never want to put the book down! Kathryn Reiss has an exellent style of writing! I am putting all of her books on my wishlist!!
When Connor is transported back to the 1920's, he has to find a way to save his mom from an evil that has lived on since the Renaissance. He befriends Betty, Homer, and the rest of the Cotton kids, who seem to know his mother... but how? This is the first book of Kathryn Reiss's that I've read, and it was fabulous: totally page-turning. Two words: READ IT!
I think this is a kids book. Good story though.
Was one of the best books I've ever read. Mostly unpredictable and full of characer connections. Great story about families.
but then as far as reading skills go today you wont need a dictionary for most adult reads either
This should be a very popular novel!!! IF YOU HAVENT READ IT BUY IT NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This book is great. I loved it.
Paint by Magic was a great time-traveling book. Lots of interesting things you'll never forget, nice lessons in the end of the book. A must read for time-travel and dimension junkies
this book was pretty good but some parts could b really confusing. not as good as other of reiss's books but still pretty good. it's kind of weird and the events are suprising.