Saturday, December 5, 2009

Chapter book of the week: The Van Gogh Cafe

I am a little ashamed to admit it, but I don't read fantasy books.  I would much rather read historical fiction or nonfiction, and I can't even remember the last fantasy book that I willingly read.  I picked Cynthia Rylant's The Van Gogh Cafe from the stack of new books, knowing nothing about it except for the fact that it got rave reviews.  Now I see why; this charming little book is a delightful fantasy.

The Van Gogh Cafe is housed in what used to be a theater.  Theaters are always magical, according to the main character, Clara.  And magical things do happen at the Van Gogh Cafe: breakfasts cook themselves, the owner, Marc (Clara's father) writes poems that predict the future, and cats fall in love with seagulls.  Each chapter highlights a bit of magic that occurs in this sleepy little Kansas town. This would be a great introduction to fantasy, or it would make a great classroom read aloud.  It is very short (53 pages), and contains many springboards for classroom discussions about writing, such as small moments, imaginative similes, and a person who wants to be a writer but feels that he doesn't have the talent.  This will be suggested to many a reluctant reader in the months to come!

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