FIERCELY FICTIONAL: The Magic Paintbrush

FIERCELY FICTIONAL celebrates fierce, inspiring fictional girls we know you’ll love. To us, “fierce” isn’t just about slaying dragons or solving mysteries. It’s about breaking free from your comfort zone, discovering your confidence, fighting for what you believe in, & discovering your emotional strength. Any girl can shine bright & be fierce, & in this series, we’ll connect you with a new fiercely fictional character every month!

FIERCELY FICTIONAL is back, and we’re highlighting the creative and brave Amy Li from The Magic Paintbrush by Kat Zhang.

Amy has always loved drawing, but lately, all her creations seem to be lacking something. Her old work feels too childish, filled with fantasy creatures and lots of personality. Her new drawings seem to be missing the passion and magic that her art used to have, and she’s struggling to find a style that feels like her own now that she’s older and trying to take things more seriously.

While staying with her Lao Lao for a few days, she encourages her to draw more, and Amy stumbles across a jade paintbrush. At first, it seems broken, but when she puts the ends together, it somehow becomes whole. She uses it to draw her old favorite creation, her imaginary friend Luna, a creature with the head and wings of a bird and the body of a tiger. But when Luna magically pops off the page, talking to her in her bedroom and soaring through the streets of Flushing, Queens, Amy quickly learns about the brush’s true potential.

The Magic Paintbrush:

Book cover for The Magic Paintbrush by Kat Zhang

In this highly illustrated series launch, Amy, a Chinese American girl picks up an ancient paintbrush and unwittingly unleashes the power to make her art real—and sometimes dangerous. Perfect for fantasy readers who love Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor and Dragon Pearl series.

Amy has always loved art, but lately her drawings have been less than impressive. There’s no passion, no personality, no…magic. Until Amy visits her Lao Lao, her grandmother, and finds an ancient paintbrush that brings anything Amy creates to life!

Now her creation Luna has taken over her bedroom and is running through the streets of Flushing, Queens. What awaits: an international adventure filled with an ancient Chinese legend, a greedy adversary and ghastly beasts!

Award-winning author Kat Zhang teams up with Eric Darnell, the writer and director of the Madagascar series and the Chief Creative Officer of Baobab Studios, to create a captivating highly-illustrated middle grade series debut about finding your own path, the power of imagination, and the strength of family.

The Magic Paintbrush
AUTHOR: Kat Zhang with Eric Darnell
PUBLISHER: Crown Books for Young Readers
DATE: May 21, 2024

The paintbrush didn’t just bring Luna to life but also awakened something sinister near the mountains of Guilin, China, and Amy’s grandma is kidnapped by a greedy man with his own beastly painting come to life. Amy suddenly finds herself in China on the adventure of a lifetime with her not-so-imaginary friend Luna and new friend Diego, face to face with ancient Chinese legends and facing off against evil adversaries and mythical creatures, using her imagination and artwork to ensure the paintbrush doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

We think our readers will love The Magic Paintbrush for its thrilling, fast-paced story filled with Chinese folklore and captivating characters and, of course, the beautiful artwork within the pages that help bring the story to life.

Amy is fiercely creative, even if she doesn’t remember that at the beginning. Everyone struggles with feeling the need to grow up and leave the things we loved as kids behind, but that doesn’t mean losing your imagination and creative spirit. It’s exactly those things that help ignite Amy’s confidence and bravery (plus the help of supportive friends). What could be more fierce than that?

We’re excited to share that The Magic Paint Brush author Kat Zhang is here sharing a peek between the pages of this new read and all the reasons Amy is totally fierce!

Five Reasons Amy Li is Totally Fierce:

Graphic that reads "Doesn't Back Down"

She doesn’t back down from a challenge:

Amy’s adventure begins when she finds a magical paintbrush at her grandmother’s apartment—accidentally setting off a chain of events that gets her grandma kidnapped by a monster! Suddenly realizing that magic is real, that imaginary friends can become not-so-imaginary, and that you wield the power to make your art come to life is a lot to take in. Amy is understandably overwhelmed.

But when the going gets tough and she realizes it’s up to her to save her grandma, she takes responsibility and faces her challenges head on . . . even when that means traveling across the world following a giant beast!

Graphic that reads "Never Gives Up"

She never gives up:

Traveling from New York to Guilin, China, is only the first step of Amy’s journey, and things somehow get tougher from there. She has to outwit Chen, a selfish man who controls the taotie (the monster that kidnapped her grandma), while figuring out how to properly use the magic paintbrush. It’s not easy, and Amy definitely has moments of self-doubt, but she always pushes through.

Graphic that reads "Believes in Herself"

She learns to believe in herself:

Amy’s been having a tough time with her art. She’s not happy with the things that she draws and is really hard on herself. She constantly compares herself to others and worries about the ways that she falls short. 

Discovering the magic paintbrush is amazing, but having her art come to life puts even more pressure on her! It takes time, but Amy comes to realize the importance of having confidence in herself, and how valuable her unique talent is.

Graphic that reads "Unleashes her Creativity"

She unleashes her creativity:

Once Amy becomes more confident, she’s able to really unleash her creativity. Amy used to worry about being childish, but when you wield the magic paintbrush, you need childlike imagination! How else would she be able to create fantastical flying machines, mythical creatures, and wonderous portals?

It’s only through thinking outside the box that she manages to battle Chen, rescue her grandma, and keep the magic paintbrush safe.

Graphic that reads "People Aren't What They Seem"

She learns people aren’t always who they seem:

When Amy first learns that she’s going to stay with her grandmother over spring break, she’s not expecting much. She thinks her grandma will be boring, and they’ll have little in common, despite her mom reminding Amy that Grandma—or Lao Lao, as Amy calls her—is also an artist. 

When Lao Lao is kidnapped, Amy jumps to her rescue. No matter what, she’s family after all. But it’s not until they reconnect in China that Amy realizes she has vastly underestimated her grandmother. Lao Lao is brave and wise, and knows much more about what’s going on than Amy expected! Together, they make a fantastic team.

📚Need another fierce read to add to your shelf after The Magic Paintbrush? Catch up on our FIERCELY FICTIONAL series!

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