Given a paintbrush by a mysterious old man he's saved from miscreants, Nib is intrigued by its power to paint things that then come alive--until the wicked king tries to commandeer his talent. Escaping, Nib wins great success with his gift, but learns its true value only when he's able to use it to restore a cherished friend to life. Recaptured by the king, he uses the paintbrush one last time to trap the monarch in his own belligerence and greed. Many familiar elements are smoothly interwoven in this complex, imaginative fable. The rather formal illustrations, rich in meticulously painted detail, add to the feeling of fantastical drama. A lengthy story to intrigue older readers as well as the picture-book crowd.