Vincent and Theo - The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman
Godwin Books, 2017
Earlier this week, Teresa reviewed two nonfiction titles which we are considering for the Mock Newbery this year. And I have yet another nonfiction title – this time a biography – to highlight. This is a story of unconditional love between two brothers.
Everyone knows about Vincent Van Gogh, the esteemed post-impressionistic artist who made such a profound and lasting impact on Western Art. Perhaps not as well-known is his brother, Theo. An important art dealer of the time, Theo was also responsible for offering unflinching support – both emotional and financial – to Vincent, which allowed his brother to devote himself entirely to his art.
The story of the love between these two brothers is beautifully written, and seems to measure itself very well when looking at the Newbery criteria, particularly in these areas:
- Presentation of information including accuracy, clarity, and organization
- Delineation of characters
- Delineation of a setting
- Appropriateness of style
My biggest question when considering this as a Newbery contender is the intended age of the reader. The Newbery Award is designed as a children’s literature award. As stated in the criteria: “The book displays respect for children’s understandings, abilities, and appreciations. Children are defined as persons of ages up to and including fourteen, and books for this entire age range are to be considered.” Some of the issues (prostitution, self-harm, mental health issues) raised may be addressed in a manner more appropriate for an older audience.
This story of brothers is well-researched with the back matter including a variety of additional resources for further study:
- A list of people involved the brothers’ lives
- A calendar of significant and relevant events starting with Vincent’s birth on March 30, 1853 and continuing through June 1973 when the Van Gogh Museum opens in Amsterdam
- An extensive and illuminating author’s note
- A bibliography including books, articles, and websites
- End notes which detail the sources of quotes contained in the book
- A comprehensive index
I can't wait to talk about this book at our Mock Newbery discussion which will be held on February 3rd, 2018 at the Main Library in downtown Fort Wayne, IN. Or add your comments below! We'd love to know what YOU thought of this title.
Each week, beginning the first week of November 2017 through the last week of January 2018, we will be discussing one (or more) of the titles on our 2018 Mock Newbery list. (The complete list of titles we'll be discussing can be found here.)