Behind the Canvas by Alexander Vance

Seventh grader Claudia Miravista loves art, especially painting. None of her schoolmates share her interest, though, and when Claudia sees a blue-eyed boy inside a Dutch Renaissance painting at the local art museum and begins talking to him, her classmates think she’s crazy. But when Pim—that’s the boy’s name—talks back and asks Claudia to rescue him from captivity to an evil witch in the world behind the canvas, Claudia thinks her classmates may be right. Maybe she is crazy to even consider entering a dangerous world of canvas and paint and witches and cubists and magic.

The book definitely could have used several full color reproductions of the famous paintings that are mentioned, but I understand that would be costly. Instead, the author uses made-up explanatory footnotes from “Doctor Buckland’s Art History for the Enthusiast and the Ignorant” to give the reader information about artists, paintings, and schools of art that are mentioned in the story. I liked the rather whimsical footnotes, and for a glimpse of the actual paintings, there’s always Google.

The story itself doesn’t exactly move slowly; there’s lots of action. However, sometimes the journey from one artistic landscape to another to another gets a little monotonous. The grand theme of the book is about learning to see things (art in particular) from different perspectives and using one’s imagination to see through confusion to the heart of the matter. Claudia and Pim have trust issues and must learn to trust and help one another in spite of past lies and obfuscations.

Particularly recommended for art lovers who are also fantasy lovers, and for fans of Blue Balliet’s art mystery books or Elise Broach’s Masterpiece or Marianne Malone’s 68 Rooms series.

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