The Artist and Me

h1 March 15th, 2016 by jules



 

Here’s a short post about Shane Peacock’s The Artist and Me, illustrated by Sophie Casson and coming to shelves next month (Owlkids Books). Strikingly, this is how it opens:

In the beautiful countryside in southern France near the town of Arles long ago, I used to do an ugly thing.

The narrator here, we learn as the story progresses, is an older adult looking back on his childhood. He remembers tormenting the local “crazy man” with “wild red hair,” Vincent Van Gogh. The boy, and everyone he knew, mocked the penniless artist. The man recalls the taunts and how and why they targeted him. He recalls how he’d always teased him in a crowd (“since that is what cowards do”). He remembers the artist saying, “I must tell the truth,” yet telling himself that the man was merely crazy. Sometimes, the man recalls, he’d watch Van Gogh work, quietly and when no one else was around. In truth, he possessed a fascination for his artwork and the artist’s maverick spirit. Towards the close of the book, he recalls how he once snuck right up behind the artist as he painted a wheat field. (Wheat Field with Crows is, indeed, believed to be Van Gogh’s last painting.) The boy was amazed and “terrified. My knees went weak. … And for an instant the world was bigger and brighter than it had ever been.” Van Gogh turned to him and offered him his painting, but the boy ran.

Now, as an older man, he sees the painting in a museum in Paris, a “treasure no money can buy.” We know from the book’s third spread that the man is noting these memories in a journal/photo album of sorts. At the very end, he writes, chillingly, “I don’t laugh at him anymore.”

It’s all followed by an author’s note about Van Gogh and about bullying that I almost find superfluous, because the tender story itself is so beautifully and sparsely written, as well as vividly illustrated. The story itself makes its point quite eloquently. Here are some more spreads so that you can see for yourself. …

 


(Click to see spread in its entirety)


 



(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


 


 


“I tormented someone. I was mean to him.
But he wasn’t just anyone.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 


“He was a crazy man. He had wild red hair and a short red beard and a dream. …”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 

* * * * * * *

THE ARTIST AND ME. Copyright © 2016 by Shane Peacock. Illustrations copyright © 2016 by Sophie Casson. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Owlkids Books, Toronto.

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One comment to “The Artist and Me

  1. Love the art…I can’t stop looking at the image of him leaning out of the window. That yellow. Thanks, Julie.


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