Books Into the Wild: Artists and Rebels Non-fiction Wednesday Nonfiction Picture Books Reading Themes

[Nonfiction Wednesday] The Tortured Artist that is “Vincent Van Gogh and the Colors of the Wind”

nfpb2016logo (1)

Myra here.

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:


Front endpaper.


Back endpaper.

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:






And to complete the Van Gogh experience, here is Don McLean singing Vincent. 

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

4 comments on “[Nonfiction Wednesday] The Tortured Artist that is “Vincent Van Gogh and the Colors of the Wind”

  1. lindabaie

    It does look like a beautiful book, Myra. I’ve read several about Van Gogh, but not one that is this extensive. Thanks!


  2. Wow, that first book looks stunning, and strange! I do wish more nonfiction picture books would include author’s notes/references etc, but I still love them. 🙂


  3. Pingback: [Nonfiction Wednesday] Torturing An Already Tortured Soul in “The Artist And Me” – Gathering Books

  4. Pingback: [Nonfiction Wednesday] The Story That Was Vincent – Gathering Books

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: