Reviews /

Dadaji’s Paintbrush

Authored by Rashmi Sirdeshpande
Illustrated by Ruchi Mhasane
Published by Andersen Press

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Dadaji’s Paintbrush is a tenderly told story of the special bond between a grandparent and a grandchild and a kind exploration of loss, grief and the everlasting nature of love. 

In a tiny Indian village, a small boy lives with his grandfather in a house full of paintings and shared creativity. As the boy grows from toddlerhood onwards his skill as an artist is nurtured by his loving grandfather. The boy uses first his hands to paint and then progresses to brushes made of sticks with strips of cloth, reeds or flowers. Sometimes the two of them make paper boats, grow fruit or read together and sometimes other children watch and occasionally join in with them. Whatever the two of them do, they do they do it together. But then one day his grandfather has died and all that is left for the boy is his grandparent’s paintbrush. The young man is overwhelmed with sadness and puts the brush away, no longer able to experience the joy he previously found in art. Time passes, years pass, until a little girl knocks on the door asking the boy to teach her to paint as his grandfather taught her mother. Gradually, the boy realises that with time and attention he can recreate what his grandfather shared with him with this small child and the cycle continues and as he teaches the village children, he understands that his grandfather is with him still and always will be. 

This beautiful picture book is both gentle and wise. It’s comforting message of acceptance and reassurance that love never really dies is told with kindness through both the text and the illustrations. The soft, slightly smudgy appearance of the illustrations has a nostalgic appeal and they are full of the warmth of India. The beginning of the story is bursting with joy and colour and therefore the subtle depiction of grief and loss in the greyness of the pages after the death of the boy’s grandfather is extremely effective. The little girl standing in the open doorway brings sunshine both literally and figuratively back into the boy’s life. 

The story conveys hope in its kind message and encourages children to be positive and not to give up as there is always a way forward. Dadaji’s Paintbrush could be a useful book for teachers who are in the difficult position of comforting a child experiencing the loss of a grandparent, or who are experiencing grief of any type. It also has a lovely depiction of the power of creativity to bring people together and create a community and the book provides opportunities for discussion with slightly older children about the importance of this for our wellbeing and mental health. A valuable addition to primary school libraries and classrooms.