Tammy’s mother is in a coma after an accident, and Tammy and her brother Ken worry that she may never wake up. Life is difficult for the family as the children’s father spends a lot of time at the hospital when he’s not working, but the news that their Great Aunt Yuri is coming from Japan to help care for them during the summer is not welcome. Even though they’ve never met Yuri, they’ve heard stories about her, and they have nicknamed her Mean Yuri.
Tammy and Ken are determined to sabotage their time with Yuri so she will leave them, but as they spend more time with her and get to know her, they discover the story behind the family legend. There’s more to Yuri than they realized.
Yuri’s Brush with Magic by Maureen Crane Wartski charms with its Japanese legends and a paintbrush that seems to make its subjects come to life. Tammy is at the age where she still believes that fantasy tales may be real, but she’s old enough to know the consequences of real life tragedy. She desperately needs someone who can help her get through the dark times of her mother’s illness.
Yuri is a mystery who gradually reveals herself to the children, and the reader gets to see her unfold as Tammy and Ken do. While at first I was put off by the extremes of the supporting characters in the story, I began to see their personalities as parallel to some of the characters in the old legends. The nesting habits of sea turtles is also part of the storyline of Yuri’s Brush with Magic, and the author includes lots of sea turtle facts at the end of the book. They are great for discussion, and mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 9 to 12 can also talk about how miscommunication can lead to misunderstanding, the lessons taught in the old legends, friendship, and more.
Publisher Sleepy Hollow Books provided me with a copy of this book to review.