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The Painted Chest    by Judith Christine Mills order for
Painted Chest
by Judith Christine Mills
Order:  USA  Can
Key Porter, 2007 (2007)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Painted Chest tells the story of villagers, whose lives are focused on survival - they work from dawn to dusk in an 'endless cycle of plowing, planting and harvesting.' Most don't notice the beauty of wildflowers or hear sweet birdsong, but young Maddie sees and hears what's all around her - and dreams.

Old Geordie, whom Maddie helps, tells her of a great famine that struck the village many years before, and haunts its people still. She wonders how villagers lived before the famine. Then one day, they dig up an old wooden chest and read its inscription which ends, 'There's more to life than flesh and bone, / We cannot live by bread alone.' Inside are flimsy shoes and oddly shaped objects. The villagers are disappointed, but Maddie enlists the children to help her, and they explore the chest's contents. Can you guess what they are used for?

The children, led by Maddie, work it out and lead the villagers to a new understanding of what matters in life and to 'a different world', a much more joyful and colorful one. Like the chest itself, the story encloses an important message, and the illustrations deliver it perfectly.

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