cover image Twenty Heartbeats

Twenty Heartbeats

Dennis Haseley, , illus. by Ed Young. . Roaring Brook/Porter, $16.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-59643-238-3

Set in the indeterminate Far East of long ago so often favored by Caldecott Medalist Young, this story about a rich man and an artist lends itself to various levels of interpretation. Children may see the book as a lesson about how practice makes perfect; adults may see it as a confrontation between commerce and art. The rich man pays an artist to paint a picture of his beloved horse; after years of waiting, he is furious when the artist paints the picture in little more than “twenty heartbeats.” When he sees the thousands of drawings of his horse in the artist's studio, however, he understands why the artist has struggled so long. Like a folktale, Haseley's (A Story for Bear ) text unfolds economically, but it is Young's virtuoso illustrations that breathe life into the book—the combination of elegant brushstrokes and collage designs are masterly. At its best, the story, however imperfectly, attempts to explain just how an artist transforms his vision into art; through Young's artwork, readers, like the rich man, will understand how remarkable that vision can be. Ages 5–9. (May)