Wednesday, March 24, 2021

The Story Behind the Story of Scarlet's Magic Paintbrush by Melissa Stoller

Thank you, Lynne Marie, for featuring me and the “story behind the story” of my picture book, SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH (illustrated by Sandie Sonke, Clear Fork Publishing, 2018). And I’m delighted to offer a sneak peek about the soon-to-be released sequel, RETURN OF THE MAGIC PAINTBRUSH (illustrate by Sandie Sonke, CFP, 2021).

 SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH is all about exploring the magical creativity that we possess, and also about letting go of perfection. The inspiration came from my love of art and art history, and particularly my fondness for The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. One of my favorite childhood books was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg, about siblings who pursued a grand adventure at the Met. I visit the museum often, and always think about how the author used the museum as the backdrop for that story. One day, I stood in front of one of the incredible Impressionist paintings at the Met and wondered: What if I had a magic paintbrush and could paint perfect pictures like Claude Monet? I imagined all sorts of amazing artwork gracing my walls! And then I wondered: What if I lost that magic paintbrush? How could I continue painting? And then finally . . . what would happen if the magic paintbrush reappeared? I envisioned an art-filled adventure, just like in my favorite childhood book!

Well, the story idea blossomed from there. I wrote about a little girl named Scarlet (her name is an oil paint color I love). And I imagined Scarlet’s magical, mystical paintbrush. Publisher Callie Metler also loves art history and happily bought the manuscript. Art Director and Editor Mira Reisberg added the amazing illustrator Sandie Sonke into the project, and Sandie brought the story to life with her whimsical artwork. Whenever I read the story at school visits, children love looking at all the details, and searching for the adorable dog that Sandie included on each page.

But the story didn’t stop there. I kept thinking about these characters and the theme of finding your own magical creativity. And in fact, I wrote a sequel that will be releasing from Clear Fork in 2021. RETURN OF THE MAGIC PAINTBRUSH features the same amazing team. I can’t wait to share this friendship story, which features Paintbrush returning to say she is sorry for being too bossy, and to help Scarlet with a big artistic problem. The vibrant illustrations are gorgeous, and feature stunning nature scenes. I am so excited that this collaboration has continued and I look forward to sharing the book cover and the whole book soon!

In the meantime, I hope that this “story behind the story” might inspire you to ask “what if” questions, to wonder, to observe everything in your world, to reflect on your favorite childhood books, and perhaps to find a spark of inspiration at a place you love, like I did at the Metropolitan Museum.

Cheers to magical creativity!


Melissa Stoller is the author of the chapter book series The EnchantedSnow Globe Collection - Return to Coney Island (Clear Fork Publishing, 2017); and the picture books Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush, Ready, Set, GOrilla!, and Sadie’s Shabbat Stories. (Clear Fork, 2018 and 2020). Melissa is a Blogger and Course Assistant for the Children’s Book Academy, a Regional Ambassador for The Chapter Book Challenge, a Moderator for the Debut Picture Book Study Group, a volunteer with SCBWI/MetroNY, and a founding member of The Book Meshuggenahs. In other chapters of her life, Melissa has worked as a lawyer, legal writing instructor, freelance writer and editor, and early childhood educator. She lives in New York City with her family, and enjoys museums, theatre, and long beach walks. Follow her blog, “This Writing Life,” where she interviews other creators about stories, creativity, and connection, at

Purchase Scarlet's Magic Paintbrush HERE.




  1. Thank you so much, Lynne Marie! I'm so honored that you featured SCARLET'S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH on your "story behind the story" post!

  2. It's always a pleasure to work with you, dear Melissa! So happy to have you on board as a Judge! Woo hoo!!!!

  3. I love From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and loved hearing the story behind your story. I can't wait to read Scarlet's and Paintbrush's new adventures! Congratulations!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Jolene! So nice to see you! We would love to feature YOU as well. Let me know!

    2. You are so kind, Lynne Marie! <3 I'll check it out--I appreciate the offer so much!