Matti, Truus. Mister Orange. Enchanted Lion Books, 2012. $16.95, 160 pages.
Link to Author’s Website: http://www.letterenfonds.nl/en/author/381/truus-matti
Links to Interviews with Translator:
Links to Reviews Available Online:
Reader’s Annotation: To deal with his brother’s departure for war, Linus makes friends with an imaginary superhero and a real life artist.
When Linus’ older brother Albie goes to Europe to fight in World War II, Linus is left with Mr. Superspeed, the superhero Albie created, to reassure him that Albie will be safe. Along with other changes, Linus now takes over the delivery of groceries for the family store. One of his regular customers is a man he calls Mister Orange for the crates of oranges he delivers. Mister Orange turns out to be an artist from Holland (based on Piet Mondrian), who left to escape the Nazi oppression of the arts and artists. Linus soon befriends Mister Orange and they have interesting conversations about art and life. It is Mister Orange that Linus turns to when he reads a letter from Albie that portrays the reality of war as opposed to the romanticized version that Linus imagined when Albie first left. Convinced that imagination has no practical use in the world, Linus even stops his conversations with Mr. Superspeed. Through his friendship with Mister Orange, Linus is able to move past his shattered innocence and find a place for his imagination and himself in the world again.
The story was written with simple and straightforward language. Told from the point of view of a child, there is an innocence and wonder about the world as experienced by Linus. The conversations with the imaginary superhero add to the innocent atmosphere. This is until his illusions are shattered by the harsh truth about war and about life. Matti has a beautiful scene where Mister Orange talks to Linus about the value of imagination. This really conveys his theme also about art and its value. The characters are likeable and believable. Linus and his family could be any family with a child off at war. Their relationships and struggles are true to life and easy to sympathize with. Mister Orange is based on a real artist, Piet Mondrian. At the end of the book is additional information and resources about Mondrian. Overall, this book, while set during World War II was more about art and life than about war.
- Popularity: 3
- Quality: 4
Genre and Subgenre: historical fiction
Appeal Factors: art, history, World War II, family relationships, comics, imagination
Readalike Titles or Authors:
- Erika’s Story by Ruth Vander Zee
- Copprenickel Goes Mondrian by Maria Popova
Awards Won and Book Lists:
- Batchelder Award
- Conversations with Mr. Superspeed
- Reading Albie’s letter about his friend dying
- Mister Orange’s apartment decor
- Conversation with Mister Orange about imagination
Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:
- Mister Orange says that you have to have imagination to be able to go to war. Do you agree or disagree?
- Can art fight wars? How?
- Why does the author use the conversations with Mr. Superspeed?
Why I Chose This:
I chose this title because I thought it was a novel about World War II. It actually ended up being more about art and an artist. However, the message about imagination was powerful and the characters were delightful.