Vincent Can’t Sleep, Van Gogh Paints the Night Sky

We’re back for Perfect Picture Book Friday featuring Barb Rosenstock’s newest release: VINCENT CAN’T SLEEP, VAN GOGH PAINTS THE NIGHT SKY. 

First, let’s take a moment to award Jeannie Mobley’s giveaway of BOBBY LEE CLAREMONT AND THE CRIMINAL ELEMENT. Congratulations to Cathy Ballou Mealy! Your copy is coming your way!


Barb Rosenstock has written a number of amazing picture book biographies. When I first started my Mining for Heart series, she shared her process in a terrific article (link below). You’ll see the result in this gorgeous, lyrical book.

Title: Vincent Can’t Sleep, Van Gogh Paints the Night Sky
Written by: Barb Rosenstock
Illustrated by: Mary Grandpré
Alfred A. Knopf, 2017, biography
Suitable for ages: 4-8
Lexile level AD790
Themes/topics: art, artists, The Starry Night


Vincent can’t sleep…
So while the sturdy Dutch village of Zundert slumbers, he lies rocking in his wooden cradle, flame-haired, a constellation of freckles sprinkling his cheeks.
His shining eyes change color—first blue, then green—and dart after pink and yellow starlit shapes that twinkle on the ceiling.

Overview (from the jacket flap)
From the time he was a little boy, Vincent van Gogh often lay awake at night. He used that time to imagine swirls of color and starlight shapes, to draw—and to explore the rich, dark life of midnight outdoors. He grew into a young man who wandered cities and coutry villages, painting the world as he saw it—even when no one else saw it the same way.
Van Gogh never achieved success in his lifetime, but he also never veered from his passion for art. He would go on to become one of the most beloved painters of all time. Vincent Can’t Sleep is a celebration of creativity, individuality, and the power of sticking with something that you love, from the acclaimed team behind the Caldecott Honor Book The Noisy Paintbox.

Activities and Resources:
Educator’s Guide

Why I like this book:
Gorgeous! (Did I say that already? It’s worth saying again.) Each sentence, carefully crafted, is packed with emotion and information, never a wasted word. The text provides a real sense of the artist and his restless spirit, and the rich, evocative art draws the reader in. As Barb states in her dedication, it’s a story “for those who know darkness and still look for light.”

Barb is patient and persistent in her writing, finding just the right thread, the “so what?” that will create a unique slice of life. Instead of trying to overwhelm a young reader with Van Gogh’s entire life story, she chose an emotional thread and one piece of art that will resonate with kids, exposing them to a great artist, a stepping stone to appreciating his work and learning more about his life.

Kirkus starred review 

Visit Barb Rosenstock HERE.

Great interview with Barb Rosenstock about this book on Picture Book Builders.

Barb’s article “Writing a Picture Book Biography? So What?” from my Mining for Heart series on finding the heart of a story.


Visit author Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books for a plethora of picture books listed by title and topic/theme, each with teacher/parent activities and resources.


7 thoughts on “Vincent Can’t Sleep, Van Gogh Paints the Night Sky

  1. Ah – Mary GrandPre! – her illustration style is so lush and perfect for this title!

    So excited that BOBBY LEE CLAREMONT will grace my shelves. Thank you Jeannie and Beth!

    Liked by 1 person

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