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<< Back to Mr. Mendoza's Paintbrush

Mr. Mendoza's Paintbrush

Book Dragon

Luis Alberto Urrea‘s creativity is limitless. Lest you cast doubt about quantity vs. quality, rest assured: Urrea’s got BOTH.He’s done the award-winning, list-making, bestselling memoirs, novels, short stories, poetry collections, anthologies, and provided the thousand words for others’ pictures … so, of course, he’s got to try the graphic novel, too …
Meet the mysterious Mr. Mendoza, the self-proclaimed “graffiti king of Mexico.” Told through the memories of a young boy growing up in small-town Rosario, Mr. Mendoza is an enigmatic figure whose magic paintbrush, I must admit, conjures images from that delightful childhood classic, Harold and the Purple Crayon.
Rather than paint pictures like wide-eyed young Harold, the crafty Mr. Mendoza leaves behind powerful words in some of the most unexpected places … from a desiccated monk’s corpse to a donkey’s behind, no blank space can escape Mr. Mendoza’s revealing fanciful script.
The church is marked for its shallow pomp, the brothel and its next-door cemetery are both shamed and shunned, and even the boy narrator and his friend are branded on their foreheads and bare bottoms after getting caught ogling bathing schoolgirls. Mr. Mendoza has no patience and shows no mercy.
Eventually, the hard-working Mr. Mendoza grows exhausted with his disgust for his fellow townspeople. He announces his departure … and amidst a growing audience, he draws his own escape, Harold style! Where he goes, no one can follow …
Artist Christopher Cardinale imbues Urrea’s story with supernatural energy, every panel somehow a snapshot of movement-in-progress, whether shatteringly monumental like the thunderclap hitting the clock tower, or quietly subtle as a student raising a knowing hand. Combined with the chameleon Urrea’s story, the result is an imaginative revelation.
- May 28, 2011 

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