Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Behind the Canvas by Alexander Vance

The Basics:
Behind the Canvas by Alexander Vance
Feiwel & Friends
Middle Grade, Fantasy
Published February 23, 2016
Source: Received Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Amazon Kobo Goodreads

Why I picked up this book:
I was looking for something a little unusual and out of the ordinary from what I normally read.

A girl discovers she has the ability to inhabit the world of famous paintings, and tries to help a boy trapped behind the canvas.

There is a world behind the canvas. Past the paint of the canvas is a realm where art lives, breathes, creates, destroys.

Claudia Miravista loves art but only sees what is on the surface, until the Dutch boy Pim appears in her painting. Pim has been trapped in the world behind the canvas for centuries by a power-hungry witch, and now believes that Claudia is his only hope for escape. Fueled by the help of an ancient artist and some microwaveable magic, Claudia enters the wondrous and terrifying world, intent on destroying the witch's most cherished possession and setting Pim free. But in that world nothing is quite as it appears on the surface. Not even friendship.

My Thoughts:
Do you remember the book Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder? There was a period of time in the late nineties when all my friends were reading it. That's the book Behind the Canvas reminds me of, in all positive ways. Confession: I found Sophie's World really slow and despite trying twice, never got to the end. 

Behind the Canvas is a middle grade version, with the art world as its focus (instead of philosophy) and a much stronger sense of humour. I loved the explanations of who the various painters and what the movements were. They were funny and informative, and fit into the world of the book quite well.

I thought the worldbuilding in this book is excellent. I loved the transition from the real world to the painted world. The idea of creative people who could conjure this world, alter it, add to it, etc. really appealed to me. I've seen the idea from a written perspective, but this is the first time I've seen it applied to art, and it was very well-done.

Though I don't normally read middle grade books, I did find this book really rewarding. The story was deep enough to keep me engaged. I was emotionally invested in Claudia and Pim. There's some dark aspects to the story, so I wouldn't recommend it for a young person reading above their age group.

Bottom line:

A mix of informative and entertaining, Behind the Canvas is a really solid middle grade fantasy. It explores the world of art, rather literally, and had me hooked from beginning to end!

5 stars
For fans of middle grade, fantasy, art

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