Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Van Gogh Cafe

Written By: Cynthia Rylant

The Van Gogh Cafe is a place filled with magic.  It is a place where dreams come true and broken hearts can mend.  Marc, the Cafe’s owner, and Clara, his daughter, believe that each day will bring new magic to the Van Gogh Cafe, and they are always right. 

Rylant starts this work of fantasy with a strong lead, “The Van Gogh Cafe sits on Main Street in Flowers, Kansas, and the building it is in was once a theater which may be the reason for its magic.  Anyone who has ever seen anything happen on a stage—anything—knows that a theater is so full of magic that after years and years of opening nights there must be magic enough to last forever in its walls.”  It is hard to imagine not turning to the next page and continue reading after the introduction of the magical place.  Readers cannot help but wonder, what is so magical about this place?  What happens there?

Another interesting style Rylant uses throughout this piece is that she ends each chapter with a statement that leads us to the main purpose of the next chapter.  For example, on page 21, Rylant ends the chapter with, “But they’re nothing compared to magic muffins….” When you turn the page, the next chapter is titled, “Magic Muffins.”  She does this with every chapter except for the last one, entitled, “The Writer.”  

As with her other stories, Rylant uses very descriptive language.  For example, I am able to visualize the magic muffins on page 22 when she writes, “The muffins are inside the little foil package, of course, which Marc has unwrapped.  Tiny muffins, gumdrop muffins, they are charming…. “Like shells,” Clara says.”  The magic of the cafe comes alive through Rylant’s descriptions—we almost feel as though we are there in the cafe experiencing the magic for ourselves.

In addition to using descriptive language, Rylant also uses simplistic language that is poetic, yet very easy to understand.  For example, on page 14, Rylant writes,  “So she waits.  She eats a lot of pie and she waits.  Something else is bound to happen eventually.”  By using short sentences, Rylant is able to put emphasis on what is important in the sentence—the fact that the girl is waiting.  Even in longer sentences like this one, “Magic is a powerful word and often misused.  Some say magic comes from heaven, and others say it comes from hell, but anyone who has ever visited the Van Gogh Café knows that magic comes from a building that was once a theater; from a sign above a cash register that reads BLESS ALL DOGS; from a smiling porcelain hen on top of a pie carousel; from purple hydrangeas painted all over a ladies’ bathroom; from a small brown phonograph that plays “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To,” the language is simple, yet powerful and descriptive.

The magic in Rylant’s, The Van Gogh Cafe is contagious.  Visitors to the Cafe believe in its magic, and readers cannot help but get caught up in the hopes and dreams that the Van Gogh Cafe inspires.   

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