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Books in Brief: Vincent Can't Sleep by Barb Rosenstock, Warcross by Marie Lu


Vincent Can't Sleep: Van Gogh Paints the Night Sky by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary Grandpre; Alfred A. Knopf, $17.99.

Vincent Van Gogh was often plagued with insomnia, and Barb Rosenstock, the gifted author of Kandinsky picture bio "The Noisy Paint Box" (which won Caldecott Honors for Mary Grandpre), uses "Vincent can't sleep…" to begin each lovely, perfect, poetic snippet about his life in this stunning book, from his cradle in Zundert, to the attic room he shared with Theo, to unhappy days at boarding school, to his work for his uncle's galleries, to his wandering days as teacher and preacher, and finally, to his work as an artist. "Vincent can't sleep… and won't stop painting! He's found his light!" Not a word is wasted as Rosenstock paints a marvelous portrait of the artist with a minimum of words. "He discovers that darkness is not plain black – galaxies of color float on the air. Flashing brushstrokes capture country cottages at dusk, city cafes at midnight, canvas after canvas like radiant chapters in a book only Vincent could read." The finale, of Vincent painting "The Starry Night" ("a swirling, moonlit dream") is perfect. Rosenstock includes an informative author's note at the end with color reproductions of "The Starry Night," "The Bedroom" and "Café-Terrace at Night." Grandpre's lovely illustrations, using Van Gogh's style and the vibrant colors he loved, are a perfect homage to the artist.


Warcross by Marie Lu; PenguinTeen, 353 pages ($18.99) Ages 12 and up.

Marie Lu, author of the dystopian best-selling "Legend" series, draws on her years in the video game industry for this hugely entertaining, action-packed  thrill ride of a novel set in a not-so-distant future where millions of people across the globe are obsessed with a video game called Warcross.  Emika Chen is an 18-year-old rainbow-haired skateboarding hacker barely able to support herself working as a bounty hunter in a Manhattan when her hacking abilities draw the attention of 21-year-old Warcross inventor and billionaire Hideo Tanaka, who recruits her to sniff out a hacker by  competing in the Warcross championship in Tokyo.  Lu brings to vibrant life the elaborate virtual worlds of the Warcross tournament, as Chen and her team on hoverboards move at lightning speed to dodge a prehistoric polar bear, a one-eyed white wolf, a dragon.  Her secret mission requires her to earn the trust of her teammates while investigating all of them in her quest to find the hacker who seems to be threatening the integrity of the game and possibly, Tanaka's life. Lu offers suspense, romance, a colorful cast of characters, a nifty plot twist and a cliffhanger ending that will leave readers eagerly awaiting the next installment.

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