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135 of 135 people found the following review helpful
on 6 June 2003
After discovering “The Gruffalo” by chance, our entire family was hooked on Julia Donaldson. All her books have strong, simple rhymes which are easy to read aloud – something other children’s authors could learn from.
“The Magic Paintbrush” carries on this tradition, but is altogether different. This time the illustration duties fall to Joel Stewart, instead of Donaldson’s long-time collaborator Axel Scheffler.
Stewart’s beautifully stylised illustrations bring a fresh and timeless feel to the story. It could appeal to a much older child than the bulk of Donaldson’s work, although younger readers will also be delighted.
The story itself is wonderfully simple and inventive. Shen, a young Chinese girl, is given an enchanted paintbrush – everything she paints becomes real. Without giving the story away, Shen cleverly puts the paintbrush to good use, refusing to let it be used by greedy people.
Like “The Smartest Giant in Town”, “Room on the Broom” and “The Gruffalo”, Donaldon’s message is handled with a light touch. Children don’t feel patronised and parents don’t feel they’re hammering home a point. After all, bedtime is for winding down – not moralising.
If you’re a fan of the author, please bear in mind that this story doesn’t use humour in the same way as her other books. That’s not to say there aren’t funny moments – but the overall feeling is that you’re reading a timeless fable rather than a modern “entertainment”.
Just three days in, it’s already destined to become a favourite in our household.
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53 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on 7 March 2005
My family have been big fans of Julia Donaldson since discovering 'The Gruffalo' two years ago.
The book is another very good book from Julia Donaldson but is quite different in style and content from the books that made her name - Gruffalo, Room on the Broom, Smartest Giant in Town etc
This time the illustrations are by Joel Stewart, rather than Axel Scheffler. In many ways the illustrations are even better than usual: they are beautiful and will appeal to children of all ages but they do not have the humour of Scheffler's work.
The story itself is wonderfully simple and engaging (as I read it I wondered if it was based on a traditional folk tale). As usual (for Donaldson) the story is told in verse with a simple rhyming scheme and a great rhythm that makes it a joy to read aloud.
For me, this book never hits the magical heights of her best work but it is still a wonderful book. It still satisfies the younger readers but it also appeals to a much older child.
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55 of 57 people found the following review helpful
on 29 December 2005
If you're expecting The Gruffalo, think again! This is a touching and thought provoking tale, but told with a very light touch. It has a powerful message, yet never preaches.
My 4 year-old adored it from the first reading. She just saw the wonderful story and (as ever with JD's books) the fantastic rhythm of the verse. Older children will spot the value of the moral.
The illustrations are beautifully appropriate to the oriental story. The dragon is stunning!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 18 November 2007
My 4 year old daughter was given this book for her birthday this year, I admit when I saw it I wasn't sure she'd like it, but how wrong could I be - she loves the book, and it's a joy for me to read. The text has a lovely rhythm and flow to it and the illustrations are quite different to other books aimed at this age group. Our 6 year old usually wants to listen in too, so in terms of age suitability I'd say it is fine for quite a broad age range. The book is about a girl called Shen who is given a magic paintbrush, whatever she paints becomes real as the paint dries, but she is instructed only to paint for poor folk, not for the wealthy. This gets her into trouble when the emperor finds out about the paintbrush and demands that she paint for him. Very enjoyable!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 8 March 2008
I went with my daughter's class to a book festival where Julia Donaldson was bringing to life her books. The Magic Paintbrush was one she narrated while getting children and teachers to act it out. She brought the story to life and she taught the children the Rhyme about Shen before she started and encouraged them to all join in. I bought the book and read it alot to my son. The words bring the whole story to life and my son knows them off by heart due to the rhyming words. But I think I wouldn't feel the same about the book had Julia and her husband not acted it out and brought it to life the way they did. It made it all so real but had made it one of my favourite book and is great for nursery children.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 23 May 2003
I really didn't think it possible that Julia Donaldson books could get better. The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom are fabulous children's books. This book is fabulous and I think is her best yet. At the risk of sounding pythonesque - this really is something completely different. A beautiful story, fabulous illustrations. You will read this many, many times.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 18 June 2006
This is now my favourite story - absolutely beautiful. I read it to my class of year 2 children and they were mesmerised by the story and flow of the text. I would reccommend anyone to read this book to a child to see it's effect.
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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on 18 August 2005
While I find Joel Stewart's illustrations for "Underwater Farmyard" even more beautiful and enchanting, his Chinese brushstroke pictures in this book have a lovely freedom to them, which well reflects the story's theme.
I was struck by the story's message as an adult, although I am sure children will enjoy it as well! Shen is given a marvelous gift of a magic paintbrush, and told "never to paint for wealthy folk, but only for the poor". Shen uses her gift to help the rural villagers around her, but the emperor hears about Shen and decides he will use her gift to add to his already enormous wealth. (It could sound like a very cushy job to her, being painter to the emperor!) Shen refuses, and her gift doesn't prevent her from being put in jail. But as the emperor lies at night dreaming about the new riches soon to be his, Shen uses her magic paintbrush to help her escape from the jail, in a marvelous way the Emperor never could have envisioned. Using her gift, she defeats him and his army, and returns to her painting work in the village, helping those around her and bringing joy and comraderie.
In an era of large corporations, and to artists and others who must decide between sucking up to rich patrons and using their skills for lesser-paid community jobs, this story rings very true! To someone who finds her gift trapped within a harsh business contract, this story is a message of hope.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 9 August 2007
Beautifully written, wonderfully illustrated, this is a truly wonderful book. My children are big fans of Julia Donaldson & this is a little more "grown up" but not in any way in a negative sense, it's just a step up from "The Gruffalo" & "Room On The Broom" etc - a real treat for all involved, the teller & the listener.
A little girl is given a magic paintbrush by an old man & is told to use it only for good - this she does,she paints things which then come to life,or become real (handy when she is told to get some fish for tea !) allowing her to help her village & the people who live there...then the greedy emperor hears about the magic paintbrush & takes the girl prisoner...what happens next ? Buy this fantastic rhyming story book & find out.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 26 February 2008
This book is so wonderfully illustrated and the story is engaging and different. I thoroughly recommend it to people who want more than the 'run-of-the mill' stories - this is bound to become a favourite in any household.
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