In a superstitious village where all things are painted white, the arrival of a stranger clad in bright, multicolored clothing brings a tide of bad luck. A black cloud appears, bringing with it a bolt of lightning that turns the school gray.
The odd stranger offers to paint the school. But, to the villagers’ dismay, she merely sits atop the building and plays her flute as the sun rises and sets. The children, though, delight in her music and colorful stories. Then one night, when the moon is full and high, the stranger begins to paint. When at last the rooster crows, the villagers awake to a most unusual surprise.
If everything in the village has always been white, then white must be right, think the villagers when a questioning stranger dressed in bright hues arrives. They are startled and uncomfortable when lightning turns their white schoolhouse gray, and they superstitiously whisper that "Foolish grow will children now" because of this misfortune. But the stranger offers to paint the school for them, and a bargain is struck. Day turns to night as he plays his flute to prepare for the magic paint job. An awesome sight greets the villagers the next day when Father Sun's glowing rays displace Mother Moon's pale ones. An interesting theme;but the ending is unsatisfactory, with its strange conclusion that "'Mother Moon has fooled us!' shouted the children. 'Father Sun shows it is so.'" The paintings are fanciful, intriguing and full of life, but the story is too puzzling. 2001, Houghton, $16.00. Ages 4 to 7. Reviewer:Judy Chernak