Ambush Books

Smoking Mirror

Sale price Price $19.54 Regular price

ISBN: 9780823048632
Publisher: Ambush Books
Publication Date: 2005-09-01
Number of pages: 176
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A Junior Library Guild Selection

"A haunting, deeply affecting book. Set on the island of Tahiti, this story of artist Paul Gauguin and the young man he immortalized in his paintings reads like a tropical breeze—easy and relaxed at first feel, but hinting at dangerous storms brewing ahead. Highly recommended."—Brent Hartinger, author of The Order of the Poison Oak and The Last Chance Texaco

From School Library Journal:
Grade 8 Up–It is 1891 and Joe Sloan, a half-Mexican, half-American sailor from California, has recently disembarked in Tahiti. His friend Robert was murdered minutes after they arrived, and Joe is left with feelings of grief and revenge. To fulfill a pledge to his friend, he searches for and finds Tehane, the girl Robert loved. When Paul Gauguin arrives in the small village, Joe has several encounters with him; most of them involve insults and punches, but they become friends. Joe's relationship with Tehane also changes as they fall in love. But she, along with the rest of her village, doesn't trust the French artist, which causes a rift in their relationship. This novel is likely to lose readers. In the first three chapters alone, the author begins to develop several topics–the death of Robert, the death of the Tahitian king, the death of the Tahitian culture and way of life, Joe's despair and suicidal thoughts, his need for revenge, and the search for Tehane. Many of these plot threads have acceptable conclusions. Others seem to be dropped altogether. The initial encounters with Gauguin seem to be added as an afterthought, and dialogue with him is often stilted. When readers finally get to know the artist, in the second half of the novel, he becomes a more developed character. Overall, this story is not likely to sustain readers' interest.–Heather E. Miller, Homewood Public Library, AL

From Booklist:
Gr. 9-12. Like other titles in the new Art Encounters series, this weaves biographical facts about a famous artist into a compelling novel. Here, the narrator is 15-year-old Joe Sloan, a Mexican American who flees his unhappy home, becomes a sailor, and lands in Tahiti in the 1890s, just as Paul Gauguin arrives. In a remote village, Joe forms an intense friendship with the mercurial Gauguin and falls deeply in love with a Tahitian girl. Gauguin's complicated, condescending views of the Tahitians as "noble savages" may jar contemporary readers, as might moments of violence: throughout, Joe plots to avenge a friend's murder; and a subplot that centers on smuggling leads to a heart-pounding conclusion. Rees has clearly done his research, and he admirably incorporates Gauguin's work and voice (a few famous quotes are included) into a romantic coming-of-age story that asks compelling questions about how artists create and where their lives and art intersect. An afterword and a time line of Gauguin's life will help readers separate fact from fiction. Gillian Engberg
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