cover image Painted Dreams

Painted Dreams

Karen L. Williams. HarperCollins, $17.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-688-13901-8

An imaginative Haitian girl takes the first step toward becoming an artist in this uneven but cheery tale from the author and artist of Galimoto. Lacking paints, brushes and paper, Ti Marie uses an orange brick, white stone and black charcoal to draw pictures on the cement wall of her modest house. She admires the vivid paintings created by the local bocor, or voodoo priest, and rummages through his trash to salvage almost empty paint tubes and scrap paper. Then, with goat hairs and chicken feathers for brushes, the child paints pictures on the wall behind her mother's neglected vegetable stand at the marketplace, thereby attracting customers. The tale's lesson about the rewards of resourcefulness and determination is incontestable, yet Williams's narrative is overwritten and sometimes careless: on a single page, she writes that the bocor's houses ""were painted with many colorful designs that made the heart pound like a drum"" and that Ti Marie ""with colors and brushes... could make pictures that made your heart sing."" Stock's watercolor illustrations are technically very accomplished but uncharacteristically sluggish. The best moments are her smooth and sunny juxtapositioning of Ti Marie's childlike drawings within polished scenes of island life. An uplifting tale about making something out of nothing. Ages 5-up. (Aug.)