Mr. Mendoza’s Paintbrush

By: Luis Alberto Urrea
Illustrator: Christopher Cardinale
Be careful growing up in the green, wet, mango-sweet Mexican village of Rosario, where a man with a paintbrush, to wit Mr. Mendoza, is the town’s self-appointed conscience.


Mr. Mendoza is the town’s self-appointed conscience.

Be careful growing up in the green, wet, mango-sweet Mexican village of Rosario, where dead corpses rise up out of the cathedral walls during July when it always floods; where vast silver mines beneath the town occasionally collapse causing a whole section of the village to drop out of sight; where a man with a paintbrush, to wit Mr. Mendoza, is the town's self-appointed conscience.

Magic realism, you say to yourself. Luis Urrea affirms to the contrary, "Not magical realism. It's how kids grow up in Mexico. Especially if you're a boy." And the part about Mr. Mendoza is really really true: he brandishes his magical paintbrush everywhere, providing commentary to singe the hearts and souls of boys who are looking to get into trouble. If he catches you peeping at the girls bathing in the river, he'll steal your pants and paint PERVERT on your naked buttocks. And one day, he performs a painterly act which no one in Rosario ever forgets!

Luis Alberto Urrea is the author of the widely acclaimed novel The Hummingbird's Daughter and a 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist for nonfiction for The Devil's Highway. Inducted into the Latino Literature Hall of Fame, Luis was born in Tijuana, Mexico to a Mexican father and an American mother. This is his first graphic novel and a riveting book, like Vatos, which young adults will love. Check out Luis' commentary on the upcoming Mr. Mendoza's Paintbrush graphic novel.

Christopher Cardinale is a muralist and artist with a social message. His large-scale murals against globalization and war can be seen in New York, Italy, Greece and Mexico. He lives in Brooklyn. He is a regular contributor to the zine World War Three. Check out our blog for an article about Christopher's trip down to the city of Rosario, Sinaloa in Mexico. This is the town where Mr. Mendoza's Paintbrush takes place.

Awards and Accomodations

2010 Kirkus Best Books for Teens

14 reviews for Mr. Mendoza’s Paintbrush

  1. Kirkus Reviews
    Urrea’s delightful tale of morality and meaning is rendered masterfully by Cardinale’s boisterous illustrations, their bold outlines providing heft to the surrealism…An enchanting exploration of life’s myriad mysteries.

  2. The Bloombsbury Review
    Mr. Mendoza’s Paintbrush is a rich gift, an off-center, enigmatic tale with a well-coupled balance of narration and art. Urrea and Cardinale are a “match made in heaven” — or at least mythology. Let us hope there’s more where this one came from. —Melody Moire

  3. Publishers Weekly
    This lovely comics adaptation of a short story by major Latino writer Urrea may have found the ideal way to present magical realism graphically.

  4. Library Journal
    Cardinale’s colorful, wood-block-style art paints this lively tale about Rosario and its townspeople with nostalgia and humor. A gem.

  5. Horn Book
    Urrea’s…short story has now been superbly adapted as a graphic novel by Cardinale. —Jonathan Hunt

  6. San Francisco Chronicle
    Christopher Cardinale’s muted earth tones and beautiful woodblock style mix fantasy with gritty reality; children and adults alike will be beguiled by this book. —John McMurtrie

  7. Albuquerque Journal
    Christopher Cardinale’s broad-brush art complements the story and gives it an air of magical realism. The art can be enjoyed independent of reading the tale. —David Steinberg

    La unión de estos dos destacados artistas en la publicación es un regalo tanto para los lectores como para quienes defienden los méritos del relato gráfico…Las ilustraciones de Cardinales le brindan al relato una nueva dimensión al destacar el arte de protesta, lo cual representa una parte esencial del texto. —Lydia Gil

  9. School Library Journal
    The richly colored artwork captures the town and its citizens in bold black lines filled with the heat and magic of Mexico. The quiet, lyrical text tells of urban legends and teenage lust tempered by guilt, and it’s beautifully woven into the graphics.

  10. San Antonio Express-News
    The [story] has now been turned into a graphic novel…vibrantly illustrated in a bold, woodcut style by Brooklyn cartoonist and muralist Christopher Cardinale. —Steve Bennett

  11. Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
    The text is absolutely sparkling, wry, warm, and funny with a satirical edge that counterbalances the magical realism that begins as an undertone and expands into the story’s climax … Readers who fell under the spell of Tan’s Tales from Outer Suburbia will definitely want to book a trip to Rosario.

  12. Midwest Book Review
    Mr. Mendoza’s Paintbrush is a stunningly illustrated life story that absolutely transcends into great art myth at the end…an evolving experience of the macabre and the sacred intertwined, evocative and haunting in its tone.

  13. EN/SANE World
    [A]n example of a graphic novel that represents Mexican/Mexican American writing and artistry at its finest. —Bucky Carter

  14. Book Dragon
    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

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