REVIEW of Matti, Truus. Mister Orange. Ill. by Jenni Desmond. Trans. by Laura Watkinson. Enchanted Lion Books, 2012. 159 p. $16.95. 978-1-59270-123-0.
[VOYA codes:] 3Q 3P M J S
Opening the covers of Mister Orange (a translation of a 2011 Dutch novel) is like opening a box of watercolor paints. The book design, nimbly-sorted language, and short chapters are simple and pleasing. Like many paintings, the story inside is comfortably familiar yet compelling. And, just as artists bring life to their creations via subtlety and resolution, author Matti slowly builds an engaging, multi-layered account of family, friendship, fear, loss, hope, and the power of art.
Linus Muller lives in New York City with his loving, hard-working family, amidst the home front of World War II. When his brother enlists, Linus becomes the family’s new fruit-and-vegetable delivery boy. On his route, Linus meets ‘Mr. Orange,’ an intriguing artist who introduces him to a vivid world of color, imagination, and hope. Mister Superspeed, an imaginary superhero, helps Linus picture the world in his head and sort out its complexities and realities.
Young teens will relate to Linus and be intrigued by entertaining characters who help him think about family, friends, war, and the future. Older teens will recognize younger selves and be absorbed by a tale that holds plenty of food for thought. All readers will paint mental images of 1940s city life and of a world that becomes both harsher and sweeter for Linus as time marches forward. Many will also wish to learn more about World War II, the history of New York City, modern art, and artist Piet Mondrian.