A young boy discovers the power of art during wartime in Matti’s second novel (Departure Time, 2010).
It’s November 1943 in New York City. When Linus’ older brother Albie leaves for the war, household responsibilities, just like the family’s well-worn shoes, pass down from sibling to sibling. Linus inherits the job of delivering groceries for the family store, and every other week, he brings a crate of oranges to a man he dubs “Mister Orange.” Based on the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, Mister Orange introduces Linus to the “the colors of the future”—yellow, red and blue—that decorate his canvases and his apartment. For Linus, visiting Mister Orange, with whom he discusses art and who teaches him the boogie-woogie, is a welcome distraction from Albie’s absence. However, Linus soon wonders if art, whether it’s comic books or Mister Orange’s paintings, has a purpose when soldiers are dying. Matti ably depicts Linus’ loss of innocence as he discovers the brutality of war. However, certain subplots, like a fight between Linus and his best friend, feel too easily resolved. The novel is strongest in the depiction of Linus’ unlikely friendship with Mister Orange, who has a childlike spirit but also knows how art can be a way to fight for freedom. Concluding notes on Mondrian add context.
A poignant story of art, growth and loss. (further reading, websites, list of museums) (Historical fiction. 10-14)