Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Brush of the Gods by Lenore Look

Brush of the Gods by Lenore Look, illustrated by Meilo So

Rating: 5 stars

Ben chose this book as his bedtime book a few nights ago, when we were on a quick weekend trip to the beach. He and Kiefer were sharing a room in our rental place. On twin beds, lying side by side, my boys lay side by side, listening to Lenore Look's absorbing story and looking at Meilo So's amazing artwork. Kiefer was asleep by the end of it, but Ben was spellbound throughout and even let out a quiet "woah" at the ending.

The book tells the legend of Wu Daozi, an Chinese artist that lived in the eighth century. The story begins in his calligraphy class when he was a young boy.  He tries to get the strokes right, but his brush seems to have a mind of its own.  The monk-teacher chides him for not paying attention, not trying hard enough, not making his brush do his brain's bidding. Yet Wu Daozi learned in that classroom that he possessed a gift: the gift of art.

Leaving calligraphy behind, he painted on walls everywhere--at temples, teahouses, and the silk bazaar.  (I guess graffiti laws were different back then?) The scenes were extraordinary, and people stopped to appreciate his artwork and skill. One day, he paints a butterfly that is so life-like that it flutters off the wall, into the air. Daozi is shocked, and is certain that he imagined what just happened.  He paints another butterfly, and it, too, flies away.  Suddenly, all around the city, his incredibly realistic paintings start to disappear.  The horses gallop off, the birds fly away, the men march down the road...

Yet the Emperor commissions Daozi to do the biggest mural of his career (hoping that it won't fly away).  Daozi toils on it for years and years, growing older and older as he paints and paints.  At the unveiling, the painting doesn't disappear.  It remains.  But Daozi...old Daozi walks right into the painting and is never seen again!

Magical for sure.  In just the right way.

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