Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Vincent Can't Sleep: Van Gogh Paints the Night Sky

Vincent Can't Sleep: Van Gogh Paints the Night Sky

Barb Rosenstock
Illustrator:  Mary GrandPre 
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Random House, 2017   ISBN: 978-1101937105

Vincent lies in his cradle and looks up at the colors that dance across the ceiling above him. It is pleasant to have something to look at when you cannot fall asleep. Sleeplessness becomes the norm as he grows into a young boy. One night he is so restless that he puts on his boots, tiptoes out of the house, and runs down a path under a crescent moon. He runs and runs until he finds a hill where he “snuggles under a blanket of sapphire sky, and looks up, up, up…to visit with the stars.”

Vincent is such a dreamer – a person who loves to draw and explore the world with his eyes – that the time he spends in boarding schools is sheer misery. While the other students work and play together, Vincent spends his time alone, drawing and writing.

When he is a young man, Vincent works in his uncle’s art galleries, where he stocks the art works and sells them to fashionable people. Unfortunately, Vincent’s temperamental ways unnerve the customers and he is asked to leave. To the consternation of his family, Vincent becomes a wanderer. The letters he writes home are full of “roadside scenes,” and in his missives he talks about how he is an artist now. He eventually stays in one place long enough to take some lessons from “proper artists,” and he finds his artistic voice at last.

Vincent travels from place to place capturing scenes that excite him, and he discovers how to paint darkness. The darkness without is no longer such a mystery, but the darkness and illness within causes Vincent much heartache and hardship. He continues to paint in spite of it all.

In this memorable picture book we encounter a sleepless child and man who, after much searching, finds a form of artistic expression that it true to how he sees the world. The path he takes in life is a hard one, and yet he persists and keeps going. His story is inspirational, and from the narrative we get a sense of how Vincent van Gogh connected with his world.

At the back of the book the author provides us with further information about Vincent, and we also get to see some examples of his artwork, including his famous painting The Starry Sky.