Twenty Heartbeats by Dennis Haseley, illustrated by Ed Young.

A very wealthy man wanted a painting of his favorite horse so he commissioned a portrait by Homan, known as a great painter of horses.  Homan observed the horse for only a short while and then told the wealthy man that he would call him when it was ready.  The wealthy man returned home and waited a day, a week, a month, several years, then several more years.  Finally, he stormed to Homan’s home and demanded to know what was going on.  Homan took a paintbrush and painted the picture right then and there.  The wealthy man was insulted and very angry, assuming that Homan had never worked on the piece.  Until he glimpsed the extent of Homan’s work.

Haseley’s text takes a difficult piece and makes it very accessible and gripping even though much of the book is spent awaiting the painting.  Young’s illustrations are done in collage and are very successful.  They range from intricate portraits of people and horses to landscapes that evoke awe.  He manages with pieces of paper to create a world where readers will happily immerse themselves.

A beautiful collaboration of art and story, this book will have elementary-age children discussing what the wealthy man learned in the end.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.