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Having come upon a magical paintbrush that will create anything with a simple stroke, Steve, his grandfather, and uncle begin to make all their wishes come true, yet when this special gift falls into the hands of an evil man, the paintbrush takes over its own destiny.
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Laurence Yep is the author of The Imp That Ate My Homework. He received Newbery Honors in 1975 for Dragonwings and in 1994 for Dragon's Gate. Mr. Yep lives in Pacific Grove, California.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Steve sat in the school yard long after school was over. He was really scared. What would his grandfather say when Steve went home? He preferred shivering outside to facing his grandfather.
All around the school yard the buildings of Chinatown crowded shoulder to shoulder. Everything here seemed so strange. It was one big nightmare.
Resting his head on his knees, he closed his eyes. Maybe when he opened them, he'd be back home where there were regular houses and real lawns. And his mother and father would be waiting in the doorway.
He tried to remember what they looked like, but all he could see were flames. He screwed his eyebrows together as he fought to recall them. No matter how hard he struggled, they were always hidden by fire.
He was all alone now--except for his grandfather. And that was the same thing as being alone.
Grandfather was mean. Steve knew his grandfather didn't want him. After the fire he had to go live in Chinatown. Grandfather had told Steve he could bring only one box with him to Chinatown. How do you put your whole life into just one box? Not that he had much left after the fire. He had lost everything ... his parents, his toys, his books, his clothes.
And everything Steve did just made his grandfather meaner. He never spoke to Steve except to scold him. And now Steve was sure his grandfather was going to blow his top.
Steve had always tried to get good grades when his parents were alive, especially in art, his favorite class. His parents had hung his best paintings in their offices so their coworkers could admire them. The rest of their house had been decorated with them.
All that was gone in one terrible, fiery night.
Now, because his grandfather was poor, there was never money for watercolors or paper. Steve had to make everything last: his clothes, his paper, his pens, and especially his paints and paintbrush.
Back at home, he would have enjoyed today's assignment. He would have painted a great portrait of the new president, Kennedy.
However, today at school the brush had worn out. The tired hairs had refused to keep their point and had split into three parts.
His third-grade teacher had criticized his painting. "You're straining my eyes. I feel like I'm seeing triple. How many times have I reminded you to get a new brush? "
"I'm sorry," Steve said. He was too ashamed to tell her that he could not afford a new one.
"You should have obeyed me. Maybe this will teach you," she had said, and she wrote a big "F" on his picture.
The rest of the day Steve was in a daze. He had never gotten an F before, and he had never thought he would get it in his best subject.
He opened his eyes now. He was still caught in the nightmare, and it was getting worse. The Chinatown shadows were growing longer. All around him the doorways started to look like mouths. They stretched wide to swallow him.
Finally he got more scared of the Chinatown streets than of his grandfather. Slowly he walked through the narrow alleys until he reached his grandfather's apartment building. Steve couldn't think of the ugly building as his home.
The tenement house was all of dark-red brick. Dirt made the bricks look even darker. It had a narrow front that rose for three stories.
As Steve mounted the steps, he heard shouting from the back. Everyone in the tenement shared the kitchen, with its sink and stove. The tenants were supposed to take turns, but there were always fights.
"Hey," Mrs. Lee yelled, "it's time to get out of here."
"I can't help it," Mrs. Chin shouted back. "The people ahead of me took longer."
"And afterward clean up the stove and the sink for the next person," Mrs. Lee snapped.
Their angry voices chased him up the dim stairs. Their words nipped at his ears. The Chins and the Lees always seemed to be fighting over something.
He stopped when he reached his floor. The landlord, Mr. Pang, never replaced the ceiling lights. The hallway stretched on like a black tunnel. It looked like raw, dark dough that someone was pulling longer and longer.
There was just one toilet on each floor of the tenement. It was always leaking. Steve could hear it dripping now. And yet Mr. Pang was always raising the rent. Whenever anyone complained, Mr. Pang told them to go back to China if they didn't like his building.
Steve found his way by smell: past Mrs. Soo, who was burning incense in her room. He found his way by ear: past Mr. Jow and his bad, bloody cough. He found his way by touch: past the old, moldy mattress leaning against the wall.
Groping, he found the door to the room he shared with his grandfather and Uncle Fong. Taking a deep breath, he twisted the doorknob and stepped inside.
The bare bulb dangling from the ceiling cast a harsh light over the tiny, cramped room. The paint on the old walls was peeling or stained orange and brown where the rain had leaked or pipes had burst. It was tiny compared to his old bedroom. This room was barely ten by ten feet. A small table stood near the doorway as he entered. On the table were their hot plate, glasses, dishes, and chopsticks. None of the dishes matched. Most of them came from restaurants where Grandfather had washed dishes.
Against one wall was the bed that belonged to Uncle Fong. On the opposite wall was Steve and Grandfather's bed. The room was a crazy quilt of colors. Every inch was crammed with boxes and shopping bags full of Grandfather's and Uncle Fong's stuff. The room was so packed, there was barely enough....
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Book Description HarperCollins, 2000. Condition: Fair. Ships from Reno, NV. Shows definite wear, and perhaps considerable marking on inside. Seller Inventory # GRP90487346
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Book Description HarperCollins, 2000. Library Binding. Condition: Used: Good. Seller Inventory # SONG0060282002
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