Hurricane Season by Nicole Melleby
Vincent Van Gogh to his brother Theo, September 1888
When you're in sixth grade, life can be difficult. When your mother leaves the family, life can be challenging. When your father suffers with a bipolar disorder, life is a burden that becomes impossible to conceal from others. Fig struggles under the weight of these difficulties. The daughter of a renowned composer and pianist who is no longer able to create music, it is up to Fig to maintain some semblance of order in her home and her life.
Her father loves Fig and tries to be a good parent to his daughter. But often his illness prevents him from functioning in the role of care-giver to Fig.
She is beyond terrified when her teacher notifies child protective services and a case worker arrives at her home. She knows that there are problems but is desperate to protect her father at all costs. She reasons that perhaps she can help her father if she better understands him.
A science and math geek, she takes the plunge and enrolls in a painting class. Fig discovers Van Gogh. Drawn both to his work and his life story, she begins to see her father as Van Gogh, the troubled artist and herself as Theo, the supportive brother.
Art Imitates Life. Life Imitates Art
Chapter titles are the names of well-known Van Gogh paintings. Melleby cleverly weaves each painting's theme into the chapter. For example, the first chapter "The Yellow House" describes a change in the neighborhood, when Ms. Minkle moves out of the small yellow house across the street. "Three Sunflowers in a Vase" recounts the first time Fig, her dad, and Mark eat dinner together.
You don't have to be familiar with Van Gogh's paintings to appreciate the chapter titles. However, after reading the book, I scoured the internet, finding the paintings used as chapter names. It was interesting to go back and piece together the connections between art and this novel for young readers.
For art lovers this touch is brilliant!
Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman is a thoughtful study of the van Gogh brothers. It received numerous awards including 2018 Michael L. Printz Honor Book, 2018 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award, 2017 Nonfiction Boston Globe-Nonfiction Award, and SCBWI 2018 Golden Kite Award for Non-Fiction for Older Readers. Pair Hurricane Season with Vincent and Theo for an excellent fiction/nonfiction reading experience.