Sara can't get her red chalk to work on the bumpy sidewalk. "Tim," she says craftily to a boy playing with marbles nearby, "This is magic chalk. Everything you draw with it will come to life. Do you want to trade it for your marbles?" Tim agrees, and hands over the marbles. He draws a dragon with Sara's chalk and indeed, it comes to life. But Sara doesn't like the marbles any more than she liked the chalk. In fact, in this crisp little fable by a Dutch team, nothing Sara obtains with her sly propositions pleases her, while all the children she hoodwinks find pleasure in the things they've received. One child is shown underwater, sharing her new "real pearls" (the marbles) with creatures of the deep, another blasts off to the moon in a new spaceship. The strength of Tolman's colored ink-and-wash drawings lies in the contrast between the children, all rendered in fine, sharp lines, and the boldly colored landscapes in which they play, fertile ground for the imagination. At last someone gives Sara her chalk back, and she gives up her objections ("A hopscotch board doesn't have to be perfect"). Sara is not punished for her roguish trades; the point is rather that her own preoccupations blind her to the possibilities of life. While fractious children may not recognize themselves in Sara, they may well be amused by her story. Ages 2-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz
Sara pretends to offer her friends magical items to trade because she is bored and thinks what they have is better than what she has. To her disappointment, what she gets in the trade does not turn out well at all. Not Tim's marbles, nor Sam's lollipop, nor Rob's yo-yo, nor Mathilde's flute, nor Ben's hopscotch game. But each item Sara has traded has its own magical life for the receiver, not in the brief text, but in the visual story. For with the "magic chalk" she gives Tim, he draws a dragon that comes to life, to his delight. The "pearls" traded make Sam into an ocean mermaid; Rob uses the magic to take a spaceship to the moon; Mathilde gets her wish as well. So when Ben returns the original "magic" red chalk, Sara is ready to draw a giant hopscotch game for all her friends to share. This morality play is visualized very simply with small colored line drawings on large white pages. They partner with the terse text to create a pleasant tension as we wait to see how each trade works out for our selfish heroine. Tolman brings all the actors together, real and magical, on the final double-page spread, all smiling and following a happier Sara along the red chalked hopscotch trail.
School Library Journal
A circular story about a piece of red chalk and an imaginative but bored child. Sara, unable to draw a satisfactory picture on her bumpy sidewalk, sees that Tim is having more fun playing with his marbles. Instead of discarding the chalk, she tells him that "everything you draw with it will come to life." They make a switch and Sara's claim proves true for him. She doesn't know exactly what to do with the newly acquired marbles, so she trades them for a lollipop, telling a girl that they are pearls from the sea. Sam immediately turns into a smiling mermaid while Sara discovers that the lollipop is cherry, a flavor she doesn't even like. So, she barters again, acquiring a "broken" yo-yo, an "out-of-tune" flute, and a hopscotch board that disappears in the rain. But all is not lost as Sara is again in possession of the red chalk. She uses it to draw a very large hopscotch board that she shares with the other children. Delicate pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations are the highlight of this story and deftly detail the make-believe scenarios the other children enjoy. This "grass-is-always-greener" tale is a conundrum: Sara seems to have a great imagination, but never learns to put it to use for her own entertainment.
Maryann H. OwenCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.