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Magic Paintbrush

Magic Paintbrush

5.0 1
by Laurence Yep, Suling Wang (Illustrator)

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Steve can hardly believe it. With his new paintbrush, whatever he paints becomes real. Now he, Grandfather, and Uncle Fong can wish for anything they want. Uncle Fong uses the paintbrush to return to China, to the village of his childhood, and Grandfather wants to visit the Lady on the Moon. Steve wonders if the paintbrush can bring his parents back. But they all soon


Steve can hardly believe it. With his new paintbrush, whatever he paints becomes real. Now he, Grandfather, and Uncle Fong can wish for anything they want. Uncle Fong uses the paintbrush to return to China, to the village of his childhood, and Grandfather wants to visit the Lady on the Moon. Steve wonders if the paintbrush can bring his parents back. But they all soon realize the paintbrush might have its own agenda...

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set in San Francisco's Chinatown, this novel mixes elements of fantasy and fairy tale as an eight-year-old boy gets a paintbrush that transforms his dreary life. "Snappy dialogue, realistic characters and plenty of wise humor keep the pages turning," wrote PW. Ages 8-12. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The setting for this appealing contemporary tale is San Francisco's Chinatown, the same as for Yep's simultaneously released Cockroach Cooties (reviewed Feb. 14), but here Yep mixes in elements of fantasy and fairy tale, as in his The Imp Who Ate My Homework. After his parents are killed in a fire, eight-year-old Steve experiences cultural and generational shock when he goes to live with his immigrant grandfather and Uncle Fong in a Chinatown tenement. Convinced that the stern, disapproving old men don't want him, his grief and misery are compounded by shame when he's penalized at school for not buying a new paintbrush--which his penurious grandfather can ill afford. The rapprochement begins when Steve's grandfather gives him a family heirloom, a paintbrush said to be made with the hairs from a unicorn's tale. Suddenly, whatever the boy paints springs to life, from a steak to the Chinatown moon of legends, transforming their dreary life. "Chinatowners are made, not born," insists his grandfather, who, with Uncle Fong's help, uses the new vistas that the paintbrush reveals as an opportunity to teach his grandson the lore of his ancestral homeland. As always, Yep's crisp style keeps the pages turning, and he leavens his story with snappy dialogue, realistic characters and plenty of wise humor. Final artwork not seen by PW. Ages 8-12. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
School Library Journal
Gr 2-4-Steve is a recently orphaned third grader who has been uprooted from a middle-class suburban lifestyle to live with his grandfather and his roommate, Uncle Fong, in a tenement in San Francisco's Chinatown. The lonely boy mistakes his grandfather's brusque nature for dislike and resentment. However, when Steve fails an art assignment because of a worn-out brush, his grandfather surprises him with a long-treasured magic paintbrush and the fantasy begins. Any picture the boy paints with the enchanted brush becomes real. As windows are painted on the walls of their apartment, they travel through them to the China of the old men's youth. Steve learns about his grandfather's past, about Chinese legends, and about life as a "Chinatowner." He discovers that his relative does indeed care about him, and that even though magic is enticing and exciting, its power should be used judiciously because, like nature, it cannot be controlled. Humor is evident when a greedy slumlord abuses the magic and is sufficiently humbled. Through simple yet sensitive dialogue, the author weaves a tale of alienation turning into affection, and of good prevailing over meanness. Wang's black-and-white drawings appear in every chapter and expertly capture the mood of the story.-Sharon McNeil, Los Angeles County Office of Education Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|

Product Details

HarperCollins Children's Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
5.69(w) x 8.56(h) x 0.53(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Steve sat in the school yard long after school was over. He was really scared. What would his grandfather say when Steve went home? He preferred shivering outside to facing his grandfather.

All around the school yard the buildings of Chinatown crowded shoulder to shoulder. Everything here seemed so strange. It was one big nightmare.

Resting his head on his knees, he closed his eyes. Maybe when he opened them, he'd be back home where there were regular houses and real lawns. And his mother and father would be waiting in the doorway.

He tried to remember what they looked like, but all he could see were flames. He screwed his eyebrows together as he fought to recall them. No matter how hard he struggled, they were always hidden by fire.

He was all alone now—except for his grandfather. And that was the same thing as being alone.

Grandfather was mean. Steve knew his grandfather didn't want him. After the fire he had to go live in Chinatown. Grandfather had told Steve he could bring only one box with him to Chinatown. How do you put your whole life into just one box? Not that he had much left after the fire. He had lost everything ... his parents, his toys, his books, his clothes.

And everything Steve did just made his grandfather meaner. He never spoke to Steve except to scold him. And now Steve was sure his grandfather was going to blow his top.

Steve had always tried to get good grades when his parents were alive, especially in art, his favorite class. His parents had hung his best paintings in their offices so their coworkers could admire them. The rest of their house had been decorated with them.

All that was gone in one terrible,fiery night.

Now, because his grandfather was poor, there was never money for watercolors or paper. Steve had to make everything last: his clothes, his paper, his pens, and especially his paints and paintbrush.

Back at home, he would have enjoyed today's assignment. He would have painted a great portrait of the new president, Kennedy.

However, today at school the brush had worn out. The tired hairs had refused to keep their point and had split into three parts.

His third-grade teacher had criticized his painting. "You're straining my eyes. I feel like I'm seeing triple. How many times have I reminded you to get a new brush? "

"I'm sorry," Steve said. He was too ashamed to tell her that he could not afford a new one.

"You should have obeyed me. Maybe this will teach you," she had said, and she wrote a big "F" on his picture.

The rest of the day Steve was in a daze. He had never gotten an F before, and he had never thought he would get it in his best subject.

He opened his eyes now. He was still caught in the nightmare, and it was getting worse. The Chinatown shadows were growing longer. All around him the doorways started to look like mouths. They stretched wide to swallow him.

Finally he got more scared of the Chinatown streets than of his grandfather. Slowly he walked through the narrow alleys until he reached his grandfather's apartment building. Steve couldn't think of the ugly building as his home.

The tenement house was all of dark-red brick. Dirt made the bricks look even darker. It had a narrow front that rose for three stories.

As Steve mounted the steps, he heard shouting from the back. Everyone in the tenement shared the kitchen, with its sink and stove. The tenants were supposed to take turns, but there were always fights.

"Hey," Mrs. Lee yelled, "it's time to get out of here."

"I can't help it," Mrs. Chin shouted back. "The people ahead of me took longer."

"And afterward clean up the stove and the sink for the next person," Mrs. Lee snapped.

Their angry voices chased him up the dim stairs. Their words nipped at his ears. The Chins and the Lees always seemed to be fighting over something.

He stopped when he reached his floor. The landlord, Mr. Pang, never replaced the ceiling lights. The hallway stretched on like a black tunnel. It looked like raw, dark dough that someone was pulling longer and longer.

There was just one toilet on each floor of the tenement. It was always leaking. Steve could hear it dripping now. And yet Mr. Pang was always raising the rent. Whenever anyone complained, Mr. Pang told them to go back to China if they didn't like his building.

Steve found his way by smell: past Mrs. Soo, who was burning incense in her room. He found his way by ear: past Mr. Jow and his bad, bloody cough. He found his way by touch: past the old, moldy mattress leaning against the wall.

Groping, he found the door to the room he shared with his grandfather and Uncle Fong. Taking a deep breath, he twisted the doorknob and stepped inside.

The bare bulb dangling from the ceiling cast a harsh light over the tiny, cramped room. The paint on the old walls was peeling or stained orange and brown where the rain had leaked or pipes had burst. It was tiny compared to his old bedroom. This room was barely ten by ten feet. A small table stood near the doorway as he entered. On the table were their hot plate, glasses, dishes, and chopsticks. None of the dishes matched. Most of them came from restaurants where Grandfather had washed dishes.

Against one wall was the bed that belonged to Uncle Fong. On the opposite wall was Steve and Grandfather's bed. The room was a crazy quilt of colors. Every inch was crammed with boxes and shopping bags full of Grandfather's and Uncle Fong's stuff. The room was so packed, there was barely enough....

Meet the Author

Laurence Yep is the acclaimed author of more than sixty books for young people and a winner of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. His illustrious list of novels includes the Newbery Honor Books Dragonwings and Dragon's Gate; The Earth Dragon Awakes: The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, a Texas Bluebonnet Award nominee; and The Dragon's Child: A Story of Angel Island, which he cowrote with his niece, Dr. Kathleen S. Yep, and was named a New York Public Library's "One Hundred Titles for Reading and Sharing" and a Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book.

Mr. Yep grew up in San Francisco, where he was born. He attended Marquette University, graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz, and received his PhD from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He lives in Pacific Grove, California, with his wife, the writer Joanne Ryder.

Suling Wang has worked in illustration, animation, and multimedia design for several years. She lives in San Francisco, California.

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Magic Paintbrush 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
it looks very interesting, and the cliff notes are fun to read. i love the idea of the book, its like that TV show, 'chalkzone' where its about a kid with chalk