Four Stars

 

What I am in the eyes of most people–a nonentity, an eccentric, or an unpleasant person–somebody who has no position in society and will never have–in short, the lowest of the low. All right, then. Even if that were absolutely true, then I should like to show by my work what such an eccentric, such a nobody, has in his heart. –Vincent Van Gogh

 

I should like to show by my work what such an eccentric, such a nobody, has in his heart.

 

This portal fantasy mixes Alice in Wonderland with a fantasy adventure of a real life character, the artist Vincent Van Gogh. A quotation by Gogh heads each chapter and should inspire the children reading the tale.

 

When talkative parishioners visit his pastor father, Vincent escapes the tedious talk by fleeing to a local swamp to watch bugs. Unfortunately, a short time later, three bullies show up who like to harass Vincent and break his stuff.

 

The story is first set in Europe where barrows exist. Barrows are mounds of dirt, sometimes with a hollow space inside, that marks where an important person was buried hundreds of years ago. When Vincent sees the bullies, he runs to hide in a barrow where he has hidden before. While backing into the hole, his foot hits the back wall which crumbles away, revealing a tunnel. Of course, tunnels must be explored.

I am always doing what I cannot do yet in order to learn how to do it. –Vincent Van Gogh

When he finally emerges, he’s not in France anymore, nor in Belgium. This is a bright, colorful land with ribbons floating by in the air. He is greeted by a strange, one-eared rabbit who might be an angel. This creature says that Vincent must save Wonderland from the Jabberwock.

 

This middle grade novel has a fictional explanation for why Van Gogh painted the way he did. The book also has a number of morals or lessons, the most prominent being that different is good. Although God is not directly mentioned, Vincent’s father is a pastor and Vincent is often told that he was made as he was meant to be.

 

There was the rare grammar error from time to time with the wrong verb tense or case. Sometimes the dialogue between Vincent and Alice seems wooden, but if I were reading this as a fifth grader I wouldn’t notice and wouldn’t care if I did notice. Also, Vincent and Alice sometimes discuss things in long conversations that I have never heard a fifth or sixth-grader talk about.

 

I would like to salute the author for using a full and delightful vocabulary. As a child, I never minded meeting a word I didn’t know yet. I would either look it up in a dictionary or more usually determine what the meant by context. If you have a child who is allergic to the dictionary, you might want to read this book first and give your reader a list of defined words like parasol and maelstrom.

 

Before I read to or gave to a child this book, I would show the child five or ten paintings by Van Gogh. I would make sure Starry Night was one of those paintings.

 

This book would make an excellent gift or assignment to a child aged eight to twelve.

 

Ratings

 

Heat: None.

 

Violence: Mild and non-graphic. The jabberwock kills by first making a creature discontent and angry, and then the creature blackens and withers to death.

 

Language: None

 

Available on Amazon.

 

 

 

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