CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 30. . . .April 8, 2016
Shane Peacock is well known for his “The Boy Sherlock Holmes” series of novels for middle-grade readers. The Artist and Me is his first picture book for young readers. Illustrated by Sophie Casson, the book tells of Vincent van Gogh experiencing bullying during his time in Arles, France, while he pursued his painting passion. It is told from the first person perspective of an old man reflecting on his bullying childhood years.
In his author’s note, Peacock says that he has always wanted to write about van Gogh. The artist is, indeed, one of Peacock’s heroes. Peacock’s evocative writing is both a tribute to his hero and a lesson in treating others with kindness and respect.
Casson’s pallet is appropriately reflective of van Gogh’s bright colour choices. Each heavily textured illustration is saturated with colour. The mixed-media artwork skilfully embeds scenes from van Gogh’s paintings within the story. Casson uses lines to portray movement. Her van Gogh-styled contrasting of cool and warm colours is visually interesting. Despite these artistic strengths, several of the illustrations are unusual and somewhat unsettling. They may not appeal to children who are not aware of the manner in which they deliberately reflect van Gogh’s style. Whilst the book will not necessarily have wide appeal as an enjoyable recreational read, as an introduction to Vincent van Gogh, The Artist and Me can serve as a useful classroom resource. Similarly, it can be used as a classroom conversation starter focused on issues of bullies and bullying. As the story is told from the bully’s perspective, it provides a somewhat unique viewpoint from which to approach the topic of bullying. Whereas we usually consider the impact of bullying on those being bullied, this book is valuable in that it illustrates that bullies can also suffer through their actions. In The Artist and Me, the narrator confesses to participating in the bullying because seemingly everyone else was also bullying van Gogh. It is important to note that our differences and unique talents should be celebrated rather than be the source of ridicule and scorn.
We believe that, although the book has strengths, it is not likely to have wide appeal for young audiences. The Artist and Me is perhaps better suited for use as a classroom resource than it is enjoyable recreational read. As such, whilst we recommend it, we do so with some reservations.
Recommended with Reservations.
Dr. Gregory Bryan is a member of the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba. He specialises in literature for children.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any
other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.