Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Vincent van Gogh and the Colors of the Wind

Vincent van Gogh and the Colors of the Wind

Chiara Lossani
Illustrator:  Octavia Monaco 
Historical Fiction Picture Book
For ages 8 to 11
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2011   ISBN: 978-0802853905

Though the van Gogh brothers are very different in temperament, they are very close. When they are boys, they spend much of their time together, sharing common interests, and when they leave home they kept in touch by writing letters to one another. Theo, always an easy-going fellow, finds happiness working in an art gallery, but Vincent is not so lucky. Vincent finds it hard to get along with others, and he is fired from his art gallery job. He then decides to follow in his father’s footsteps and to “take the light of the Gospels to the poor.” Alas for Vincent. His wild and passionate ways mean that he is ill suited to being a preacher, and his superior’s fire him.

For a time Vincent struggles with feelings of despair, and then “A new dream boldly makes its way in his mind.” He has always been fond of art, and now he wants to become a painter. His loving brother eagerly supports Vincent in this endeavor, sending him money so that Vincent can work on becoming an artist.

Vincent works hard and he creates many paintings, but they are all dark, and art lovers in Paris do not want to grace their walls with such depressing images. Vincent needs to learn how to bring light and color into his art, so he goes to Paris to learn how to do this. Vincent sees the paintings created by the Impressionists, and he is inspired. Happily he lives with Theo, immersing himself in the world of art. Then, as so often happens with Vincent, happiness turns into despondency and anger. It is time for Vincent to move out of the city and to get a new perspective on life, which is how he ends up in the south of France where he will create his most remarkable paintings.

Drawing on the letters that Vincent van Gogh and his brother Theo wrote to one another, Chiara Lossani gives young readers a compelling biography of Vincent van Gogh. As they read, children will get a sense of what Vincent was like, and how his close relationship with his brother Theo helped him to manage in a world that he often found very confusing.

Throughout the book, Vincent’s sketches and paintings are incorporated into the artwork that accompanies the text.