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VINCENT CAN'T SLEEP by Barb Rosenstock Kirkus Star


Van Gogh Paints the Night Sky

by Barb Rosenstock ; illustrated by Mary GrandPré

Pub Date: Oct. 3rd, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-101-93710-5
Publisher: Knopf

Vincent van Gogh’s lifelong insomnia leads to his masterwork The Starry Night.

Starting as a toddler, wide awake in a cradle, “Vincent can’t sleep.” He sees “pink and yellow starlit shapes that twinkle on the ceiling”; the illustration uses those starlit reflections and the real stars outside to begin the visual theme of The Starry Night. A bit older, he runs outdoors at night, lies down in a field, and “snuggles under a blanket of sapphire sky.” He’s at peace right then, but the text is poetically clear that peace wasn’t plentiful: he “runs into the soothing darkness and is brought back to the harsh light over and over again.” He “draws, writes, and sighs alone”; he drifts, lost, creating “canvas after canvas like radiant chapters in a book only Vincent can read.” He’s hospitalized for an unnamed illness. He works hard to know: “Does darkness have a texture? / Thick? / Thin?…Is the night sky at rest? Or do eleven stars pulse like a beating heart?” Together, text and pictures balance his unsettled melancholy against beauty and harmony. Facially, van Gogh looks much like any GrandPré face; however, GrandPré’s acrylic, pen, and watercolor spreads make marvelous use of dark blues with yellows, putty hues and pinks with swirls, and curving lines, all building to a tender, magnificent final spread.

A soft, sad, lovely introduction to a masterpiece.

(images of original art, author’s note, sources) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)