We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2016 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year.
Vincent Van Gogh and the Colors of the Wind
Written by: Chiara Lossani Illustrated by: Octavia Monaco
Published by: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2011 ISBN: 0802853900 (ISBN13: 9780802853905)
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.
Originally published in Italy (Edizioni, ARKA Milano) in 2010 and published in the US in 2011, this is not your usual picturebook biography with a straightforward narrative. This strange but beautifully illustrated book takes on multiple points of view, with the wind, yes the wind, figuring as a sort of character in the story.
It is the wind that whispers to Van Gogh to pursue what his heart desires the most, regardless of how the people around him think and feel about his life choices. The very brief Author’s note found at the beginning of the book also indicated that it was Van Gogh’s very close relationship with his brother Theo, as evidenced in their correspondence, which inspired Lossani to write this story.
What struck me the most as I was reading this book is how tortured Van Gogh must have felt throughout his life. Clearly, he was suffering from a mental disability, with his actions becoming increasingly erratic, that it threatened his own state of well-being and the safety of the people closest to him.
He was eventually institutionalized and later on took his own life. Yet despite this pretty heavy-going and tragic ending, Lossani approached the story with a lyrical, almost-surreal vibe that has resonances of magical realism, even. Some parts of it worked for me, others didn’t as I found it too wordy and exploratory. But I was floored by the fearless art. As you can see in the images here, the illustrator, Monaco, did not shy away from including Van Gogh’s famous art pieces in the narrative, unlike other picturebook creators illustrating lives of famous artists. The endpapers also deserve a special mention here – see below:
Somehow, this kind of made up for the fact that the book lacks an Afterword, a list of References, or even a detailed Author and Artist’s Note discussing their creative process in making this book. Regardless, I find this to be a unique PBB that would prove to be a good introduction to the tormented and wild life of Van Gogh.
I also found a few of Van Gogh’s self-portrait in this book that found its way to me a few weeks ago: