cover image The Red Chalk

The Red Chalk

Iris van der Heide, , illus. by Marije Tolman. . Front Street/Lemniscaat, $15.95 (24pp) ISBN 978-1-932425-79-6

Sara can't get her red chalk to work on the bumpy sidewalk. "Tim," she says craftily to a boy playing with marbles nearby, "This is magic chalk. Everything you draw with it will come to life. Do you want to trade it for your marbles?" Tim agrees, and hands over the marbles. He draws a dragon with Sara's chalk and indeed, it comes to life. But Sara doesn't like the marbles any more than she liked the chalk. In fact, in this crisp little fable by a Dutch team, nothing Sara obtains with her sly propositions pleases her, while all the children she hoodwinks find pleasure in the things they've received. One child is shown underwater, sharing her new "real pearls" (the marbles) with creatures of the deep, another blasts off to the moon in a new spaceship. The strength of Tolman's colored ink-and-wash drawings lies in the contrast between the children, all rendered in fine, sharp lines, and the boldly colored landscapes in which they play, fertile ground for the imagination. At last someone gives Sara her chalk back, and she gives up her objections ("A hopscotch board doesn't have to be perfect"). Sara is not punished for her roguish trades; the point is rather that her own preoccupations blind her to the possibilities of life. While fractious children may not recognize themselves in Sara, they may well be amused by her story. Ages 2-up. (Oct.)