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Lance Lee
Author, Contributor, Editor (anthology)
The Tale Of Brian And The House Painter Mervyn
Lance Lee, author
When 9 year old Brian is confined to his 4th. floor room in his family's Goodly Home he laments because it is white White WHITE, for the doctor has ordered he must have no excitement while he tries to find out what is wrong. But when Brian's father hires the lowly house painter Mervyn to paint Brian's rooms with familiar scenes, a fateful complication follows. Mervyn paints everything so well he creates a new world even better than the one we take for granted. Brian is entranced, and Mervyn suddenly in great demand: everyone wants to see Brian's room, or have Mervyn paint something more real than real. Grouchy as he, sometimes he does.... Things turn dire as this ruins business for everyone else—and Brian refuses to leave his new world! The town turns against Mervyn, who escapes into his new world with Brian, barring it to others forever. Brian's home collapses from the weight to all those trying to force their way in, and that world is gone.... Months later just Brian reappears: Mervyn found two too much company.... When Brian grows up he paints things more real than real too—but he paints only miniatures that are very uncontroversial, and is a great success....
In Lee’s novella-length fable, set in a fantastical California village known as Sandstone-by-the-Sea, ailing young Brian becomes depressed when he’s confined to a sickbed in a boring white room. Eager to brighten his days, his family seeks out the town's only non-abstract painter, the reclusive Mervyn, to paint the scenery and landscapes the boy adores, and Mervyn’s paintings prove so “real as real” that, soon, the entire town is enraptured at “how much fresher Mervyn’s world was compared to the original.” As Brian recovers, he shows no interest in leaving his room. Instead, his father, Moab, builds him a little house inside the bedroom and turns the magical space into a tourist attraction, growing ever wealthier as people flock to gape at Mervyn’s handiwork.

Beyond the playful fanciful elements, Lee (Second Chances) imbues the tale with an engaging satiric flavor, with the whimsy and magic giving way to comic consideration of economic and infrastructure concerns in a village where the Wizards’ Council and a Witches’ Coven attend meetings with the local Chamber of Commerce. When local businesses begin to suffer, they come after Mervyn, who is attracting unwanted attention since he can, if in the mood, literally paint things into being. Before long, Brian vanishes, Mervyn is chased by a mob, and other complications mount, all gathering into a literal and figurative storm–and a tidy ending that restores order and leaves Brian with a little extra sense of wonder.

Meilo So’s art is arresting, with splashes of color over thick black linework, if a bit busy; their boldly expressionistic quality nicely echoes a comic vow made by the village’s non-magical artists in the story: ““Paint something like it is? Never!” Often small selections from an illustration appear in the text itself, offering a chance to contemplate the rich theme of what it means to live with art that’s “even better than real.”

Takeaway: A comic fable in which a painter stuns a magical village with works too good to be true.

Great for fans of: Etgar Keret, Mary Mackey.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A-
Editing: B+
Marketing copy: A


Lance Lee’s Orpheus Rising is a suspenseful fantasy that is based on the Greek myth about Orpheus losing his wife Euridice to a snake bite and his attempt to rescue her from Hades. In Mr. Lee’s modern story, Sam and his father John live alone, study for school, and do chores day after day. At night, they keep having strange dreams neither one understands. They also have a quirky newspaper delivery man who taunts them about having no mother in the house. Sam wonders what happened to her, but he doesn’t want to ask questions that will hurt his father. One day the newspaperman gives them a fancy book with blank pages in it. Sam quickly realizes whatever he draws in it comes to life, and written stories about each one even magically appear. His father insists this is not possible, so they argue. In a particularly tense moment, Sam confronts his father about what happened to his mother. John’s answer is for Sam to go outside and play. Eventually, John starts looking for Sam and follows him to the beach. Surprisingly, he sees that a picture from the book has become real! He finds Sam in an Arabian tent with a wise dancing elephant they name Lepanto. While playing poker, Sam’s mother Madelyn appears on one of the cards begging for help, so John reluctantly tells Sam that she got sick when he was young and went to Dread City after she died. John hasn’t known how to live to the fullest ever since. Now Sam is convinced they should rescue her. With the on and off again help of the magic book’s pictures, John, Sam, and Lepanto wind up on a once in a lifetime adventure. Their journey is as complicated and unpredictable as it possibly can be. Crossing the Far Land of Fear to get to Dread City is difficult. Each step of the way, servants from Dread City also either follow them or try to thwart their progress. Not knowing how everything will work out is agonizing for them sometimes, but they face each problem the best they can. Through it all, they learn invaluable lessons about love, trust, hope, strength, sacrifice, and commitment. This book has so many surprises that readers will remember it for a long time! -- Jonny, 5 Star, 15 at time wrote review.

Kirkus Reviews: A wonderfully imaginative, playful, and layered tale.

Kirkus Reviews has just prublished their review, which follows:





A young boy meets a mysterious painter with wondrous abilities in Lee’s novel. 

Brian Jones is the son of the wealthiest man in the small village of Sandstone-by-the-Sea. His father, Moab, and mother, Melissa, and his 12 other siblings fill the house of “Goodly Home on the edge of the Sea Cliffs.” Brian becomes ill with a mysterious disease that the local doctor can’t cure. On the fourth floor of the Goodly Home, Brian’s life drains of all excitement. Desperate to cure his son, Moab seeks out an artist to fill Brian’s white room “with all the things [he] like[s] just as they are” so that he may begin to get better. When Moab finds Mervyn—an angry, muttering artist with an unusual talent for painting things realistically—he hires him to paint the walls of his son’s tower. Mervyn works for a week and produces such a lifelike display of the outside world that Brian’s family is in awe. Before long, people in the village of Sandstone-by-the-Sea become desperate for a piece of Mervyn’s magic, and when the villagers begin to turn against him, he does something quite unexpected. Lee’s marvelous imagination engagingly contrasts a portrayal of a rich family with the villagers’ simple desire for access to the same magic that the family receives. Despite the lack of variety in sentence length, Lee’s prose effectively propels the narrative to an explosive climax in which he subtly notes how unusual it is for people to chase something outside of the social norm. So’s illustrations are both vibrant and abstract, and they assist in painting a detailed portrait of both the village and the characters. Together, So and Lee create a topsy-turvy story of a genius ahead of his time.

A wonderfully imaginative, playful, and layered tale.

Readers' Favorite 5* Reviews selections

from Readers' Favorite 5 Star Reviews:

The Tale Of Brian And The House Painter Mervyn


Jessica Barbosa:  The Tale Of Brian And The House Painter Mervyn is a fantastical story that starts with a sick and sad little boy named Brian. Through his meeting with growling, grumpy Mervyn, Brian is taken on an amazing adventure through the world of art.... Lance Lee paints vivid scenes that are as colorful and mesmerizing as the art that accompanies the story. Mervyn is standoffish, unlikeable, but he paints the most beautiful scenery and his art comes to life, bringing joy and awe to those who see it. Meilo So brings life to the story in the same way Mervyn does. The colorful art accompanies the fantastical fable and together they create a magical vision of the book. But of course, such great powers have consequences and the story delves deeper into the effect this has on the people and the community. Along the way, people learn the consequences of their actions and greed and I think their regret and redemption were the best parts of the plot! ...I found this to be an exceptional book. Great work!


Carolina RestrepoThe Tale of Brian and the House Painter Mervyn is an extremely imaginative tale accompanied by illustrations that bring the Sandstone-by-the-Sea world to life. Lance Lee comes up with an original story about family, villages, and community. ...Brian is confined to his room with a strange illness. His life now consists of white walls, bedsheets, a ceiling, and walls.... His worried family manages to find a solution...Mervyn, the exotic and magical painter, becomes a pivotal figure in Brian's and the village’s story. A great read for all ages! ... There is an astounding variety of characters that in turn reflect different walks of life. I only wished it was longer.... Meilo So’s illustrations were an incredible plus to the story. I recommend The Tale of Brian and the House Painter Merwyn by Lance Lee to everyone; there are many things to take away from this reading.


Miche Arendse (4 Stars) The Tale Of Brian And The House Painter Mervyn by Lance Lee takes place in the oddly eccentric yet traditional village of Sandstone-by-the-Sea.... Brian falls ill and the doctor advises that he should stay in bed and avoid all excitement [in] his drab room...that is white, white, white. Brian’s father, upon seeing how sad he is, decides to find a painter to fill Brian’s room with the scenes he wishes to see...who turns the entire village of Sandstone-by-the-sea upside down. The book is filled with a variety of weird and wacky characters that are sure to entertain and hold the attention of any child. The story itself is so intriguing as it moved quite quickly through various events...and finally the drama that ensues from Mervyn's paintings. I think this fast pace and he eccentric storyline is definitely a plus with a children’s book.... Overall, this was an enjoyable book and I can definitely see any child loving this story.

Reedsy Review;by MJ Campbell

MJ Campbell has just pblished an excellent, "Must Read" review of The Tale Of Brian And The House Painter Mervyn:


Reedsy Review

Must read 🏆

Lance Lee's The Tale of Brian and the House Painter Mervyn is bright with colour and imagination!


This fable for children and their parents introduces us to a young boy faced with an unknown illness and trapped in his plain, white room. Nothing to do. Nothing to see. No games. Just boredom. That is until his father finds a painter to help change it all - but will the painter, who doesn't much like company and only paints when he feels like it, be able to ease Brian's lonely existence? What happens if this newly created world is so attractive he never wants to leave? Will they never see Brian again?


This book is a fantastic bedtime read with your kids or for kids reading independently (6-9 age range). It is a warm, imaginative and well-told story about the lengths parents will go to when their children are hurt and lonely, the ability of art to bring happiness and beauty, and the importance of using gifts wisely (lest things might go wildly out of control).


I loved the poetic flow of the narrative, which made this book an absolute joy to read aloud. The descriptions of Sandstone-by-the-Sea and its residents were very entertaining. In particular, the traditional seaside life of fishing boats and tourists mixed with eccentric architecture and witches and wizards running art studios and coffee shops! But, of course, who doesn't love a crazy witch making fantastical art with her bubbling brews, a wizard-run restaurant that serves spellbinding fare, and paintings by Mervyn that are more real than real? And I must say that I am a bit envious that I don't have a harpist who sings me my news in the morning! All this, combined with Meilo So's fluid ink and watercolour illustrations, brings Sandstone-by-the-Sea and all of its colourful characters to life. It is a must-read for the art lovers and dreamers in your family. 


I want to thank Reedsy and the author /publishers for providing me with the proof of this book in exchange for an honest review.


MJ Campbell


An avid reader since Grade school, I think there is nothing better than losing yourself in a good book. I've also taken on the role of finding great books for my niece and nephew to read so I pre-read quite a few middle grade and YA novels to find great books to inspire their love of reading.


Starred IndieReader Review

A Colorful And Imagine Fantasy—Shari Simpson, IndieReader, Starred Review (IR 4.5) 


THE TALE OF BRIAN AND THE HOUSE PAINTER MERVYN, by Lance Lee with illustrations by Meilo So, is a thoroughly enjoyable yarn that manages to succeed on two levels: as a colorful and imaginative fantasy for children and a slyly hilarious treatise on art, government, and religion for adults.


There is a delicious moment in the first chapter of THE TALE OF BRIAN AND THE HOUSE PAINTER MERVYN that promises all the fun to come; Moab, overwhelmed by his son’s pain, declares “I will hire an Artist to paint your room with all the things you like just as they are”– my, those were fateful words– “and you can watch him work.” The line sings with character (the parent who longs to fix everything for his child), hubris (a rich man assuming his wealth can remedy any problem), and the sly humor of an invisible narrator winking at his reader (“my, those were fateful words”). The promise is fulfilled in Lance Lee’s surprisingly deep and delightfully laugh-out-loud prose, supplemented by the whimsical and color-saturated artwork of Meilo So.

We are introduced to Sandstone-by-the-Sea, a strange land of witches and sea dragons and haunted forests that exists right alongside a world of cars and iPhones, and to the enormous family of the richest man in town, Moab Jones, including the ailing Brian who must be kept from all excitement until the source of his illness is discovered. When Moab ventures out into Artists Lane to try to find one person who will paint Brian’s wall with images of the outside world, the “artistes” are outraged and offended; doesn’t Moab know that painting things realistically destroys inspiration? This witty poking at the nature of creative expression and the inflated and touchy egos of those who create is refreshing for any reader who’s struggled to understand why an abstract painting depicting a single cube of color is considered art.

THE TALE OF BRIAN AND THE HOUSE PAINTER MERVYN takes some outrageous twists and turns and brings the reader on quite the wild narrative ride, but it’s also deeply satisfying at the level of wordplay and not-so-subtle skewering of art, the law, religion, and small town politics. Lance Lee’s fertile imagination and Meilo So’s visual delights are perfectly matched in this “fable for children and their parents” and both will love it equally.; THE TALE OF BRIAN AND THE HOUSE PAINTER MERVYN is truly a family affair.

THE TALE OF BRIAN AND THE HOUSE PAINTER MERVYN, by Lance Lee with illustrations by Meilo So, is a thoroughly enjoyable yarn that manages to succeed on two levels: as a colorful and imaginative fantasy for children and a slyly hilarious treatise on art, government, and religion for adults.