Lily Brown’s Paintings


Year Published: 2007
Written by: Angela Johnson
Illustrated by: E.B. Lewis

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Author Angela Johnson and illustrator E. B. Lewis combine their award-winning talents to create a dazzling celebration of family and creativity.

When Lily Brown paints, her world starts to change . . .

trees wear hats and drink tea, people walk upside down, and apples sing all the way home from the store.

It’s Lily Brown’s world, and it’s wondrous.

A little paint and a lot of love bring imagination to life in this captivating picture book. Angela Johnson’s lyrical writing compliments E. B. Lewis’ delightful watercolors. This book marks a different approach for E. B. Lewis’ artwork as his images imitate the great artists, such as Van Gogh and Matisse.

From Publishers Weekly

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.

From School Library Journal

Kindergarten-Grade 2—Lily loves the real world in which she lives with her parents and baby brother. But when she paints, her world is transformed into a magical place indeed. Stars come to Earth and relax in cafés. Trees wear hats and drink tea. Fruit sings on its journey to people’s homes. Lewis’s watercolor spreads become delightfully childlike when depicting the girl’s creations and pay tribute to the artists who inspired him as a youngster. Lily’s bedroom and her painting of a star-studded café bring to mind Van Gogh’s work. Her conversion of a path to the park into a “wild-animal living room” is a nod to Gauguin. The text comes full circle as Lily, her paints tucked away for the day, reenters the world of her loving family. Pair this story with Peter H. Reynolds’s The Dot (2003) and Ish (2004, both Candlewick) to inspire readers to don their painting smocks and create new worlds of their own.—Marianne Saccardi, formerly at Norwalk Community College, CT