cover image Painting the Wind

Painting the Wind

Kevin Hawkes, Michelle Dionetti. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-316-18602-5

Claudine, the daughter of Vincent van Gogh's charwoman, is the only person in Arles who finds the artist and his work exciting rather than threatening. She dreams of becoming an artist herself, and, as represented by Hawkes's (The Librarian Who Measured the Earth) vibrant settings, she begins to see through her hero's eyes: ""the trees no longer looked green to her, but gold and purple and orange and blue, and their branches danced like flames."" Claudine notes van Gogh's compulsive work habits and volatility, and also witnesses Gauguin's tumultuous visit and the artist's depression following the ear-mutilation episode. But Claudine remains enchanted by his gifts and overcomes her meekness to defend Arles's bete noire, praising his work in full view of the hostile townspeople. Van Gogh, however, remains a shadowy, distant figure, and the story is not likely to carry much weight with those not already familiar with van Gogh. Hawkes demonstrates great versatility: his lush, charismatic oil illustrations evoke by turns the intensity of van Gogh's paintings, the relative tranquility of a more conventional vision and the dark period of van Gogh's depression. While Claudine's love of art and righteous loyalty can seem emotionally airbrushed, Dionetti (Coal Mine Peaches) and Hawkes successfully demonstrate the power of art to transform vision. Ages 6-10. (Oct.)