cover image Lily Brown's Paintings

Lily Brown's Paintings

Angela Johnson, , illus. by E. B. Lewis. . Scholastic/Orchard, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-439-78225-8

Not all artists lead tortured lives. At least, not this heroine, an African-American girl who "loves her mamma, daddy and baby brother and the world they live in." Johnson (Toning the Sweep ) portrays a painter filled with a joie de vivre ("Sometimes she spins around her room thinking about their world. And it's wondrous") that takes flight in her paintings. Lily fills her whimsical, vibrant pictures with bright colors, and smiling faces, such as the one in which "the trees that she walks past on her way to school wear hats and drink tea on cool days with other trees and shrubbery." Lewis's (The Other Side ) watercolors are equally rapturous, whether he's working in a sumptuous realistic style (for Lily's everyday life) or in the cheery naïf manner of Lily herself. He also makes the beret-wearing Lily truly charismatic; by turns vivacious and utterly intent on her work, she's the very picture of a budding artist (in fact, when she's not in a spread, the energy of even the cheeriest picture flags slightly). But unfortunately this tribute to the power of imagination ends up feeling rather flat; with no arc or narrative tension, the book feels more like a pat on the head than a clarion call. Ages 4-8. (Jan.)