Sarah and Simon and No Red Paint

Family bonds, and kindness from the community, make for a poignant story of two children, Sarah and Simon, and how they help in a time of need.

Their father is a talented painter, but unacknowledged, and so the family is poor, though very happy. When the story opens, the father is painting his masterpiece. Sarah and Simon are helpers and spend their time doing chores and visiting their favorite place in town: the old second-hand bookshop with its kind owner. Soon the masterpiece is almost finished, except for the bit of red paint needed to complete it, and even the dealer agrees to buy it if it were finished the next day. But there is no more red paint, and no more money left. So Sarah and Simon set out to help their father…

The cross-hatched ink and sepia-washed drawings in Edward Ardizzone’s newly republished Sarah and Simon and No Red Paint evoke another lost era, that of Britain in the early 1960s. In a pleasantly old-fashioned story that begins with struggle and ends with redemption, we meet two children who live with their mother, their baby brother, and their father, a painter, “in a great big room called a Studio.” Though loving, the family is poor, for it seems that when the painter refused to renounce art and embrace business, his rich Uncle Robert had cut him off without a farthing. Willingly, Sarah and Simon help their parents make do: They wash their father’s brushes, sit for portraits, run errands. Their favorite refuge is a shabby second-hand bookshop, whose owner lets them read all they like in exchange for doing a bit of dusting. So when their father runs out of red paint—and money—just as he is completing his masterpiece, it is to the bookshop that the children run. And it is there, after overhearing their anguished conversation, that a crusty old customer decides that he will reveal himself not only as an artistic well-wisher but also as . . . ah, but that would be telling.
—Wall Street Journal 

Edward Ardizzone, born in 1900 in French Indochina, became a war artist during World War II. He illustrated more than twenty children's books including the Tim series, which he also wrote, and classics by Dickens, Mark Twain, and Dylan Thomas.